Winter 2024 – From the Eagles Nest Newsletter

From the Eagle’s Nest

Winter 2024

We wrapped up 2023 with more additions to the NAFWS team, regional conferences, and trainings. We are looking forward to the New Year!

Featured Articles

Message from the President
Message from the Executive Director
Tribal Highlights: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Funding in Action
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Begins Work on America the Beautiful Challenge Project
America the Beautiful Challenge Awardees Announced
Winter Regional Conferences 

Staff Updates
Conservation Law Enforcement Update
Education Update
The Bio Corner
Invasive Species

Upcoming Events
Position Openings
Funding Sources
NAFWS in the News

Message from the President

Greetings NAFWS Members, Partners, Friends, and Family:

Happy New Year, Happy Holidays! Another year has come and gone. I hope you have had a great holiday season that you have spent with your family and friends. These are the times we are going to look back on and feel good about ourselves. In all our professions, the Christmas break leads to energizing our new year! I hope this happens this year, we have had a great 2023 and by the looks of it are planning on having a successful 2024.

I hope you are all doing well.  It’s been a crazy winter so far.  I am from the Great Lakes Region of the NAFWS and this is my first season that we have not had any snow until January 7, 2024. This is unheard of. This may also mean we have some winter in front of us. 

As I look at my calendar, I see we are heading into the grant and report writing time of the year. I hope you have had the opportunity to participate in any of the seminars, webinars that the NAFWS Staff have put forth. I said this last quarter but it is worth repeating if we can help one more person or tribe, this is worth it. There will be more trainings, but if you monitor the NAFWS Social Media Platforms you can see when the next grant and report writing information is offered.  The NAFWS Staff does a great job in providing assistance where needed.

We will continue to work on Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), it did not pass congress this go around and not much movement right now. The main emphasis will be working on Bipartisan acceptance. We will continue to work for funding for fish, wildlife, and conservation for Tribes.

Our NAFWS Board of Directors have been doing an incredible job taking care of Society Business. The BOD meets in person twice yearly, May and December Meetings. The BOD will also meet in the spring and fall by zoom calls.

The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) is a national tribal organization incorporated in 1983 to develop a national communications network for the exchange of information and management techniques related to self-determined tribal fish and wildlife management.

We are a membership organization. The NAFWS strives to meet the needs of its member tribes. In order for us to be a successful membership organization, we need all of you to be involved. Let us know what your needs are and we can see what we can do to help you or your Tribe.

We have started to plan for our National Conference.  The dates are May 13-16, 2024. The Host Tribe is Prairie Island Indian Community, Minnesota which owns the Treasure Island Resort and Casino. Treasure Island Resort & Casino is located 40-45 miles Southeast from Minneapolis, Minnesota International Airport. We are asking for presentations and looking for sponsors.

Hope you read and enjoy.  The NAFWS has been very busy and hopefully with this newsletter finds it informative and helpful to you.  

Thank you NAFWS members for your continued participation and enthusiasm in our professional community. I’d like to give a special shout-out of appreciation to our NAFWS Board of Directors, Executive Director and Staff, for their tireless effort working for tribes and their lands!  They are sacred.

Thank you all and wishing you success!
Donald J. Reiter, President

Message from the Executive Director

Message from the Executive Director

Happy New Year NAFWS members, partners, and friends!  I hope you were able to spend some time with your family and friends over the last few months.  We continued to be blessed to see many of you throughout the year and to be able to spend some valuable face to face time together as a team in December.

We welcomed three new team members the last quarter of 2023, with Megan Hawkins, Grants Coordinator and Andy Edwards and Katie Schultz, America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC) Field Liaisons, filling our Grants Team.  They are already busy providing technical assistance to Tribes on current and future funding opportunities.  Please watch our social media and website for more information.  We also celebrated two successful Regional Conferences with the Pacific Region in October and the Northeast Region in November.  We welcomed Donna Nez (PA) for another term and T. Jason Mitchell (NE) as the newest board of directors’ member.  

As I reflect on the past 4 and a half years that I have been the Executive Director, it is very exciting to see all the changes and growth we have experienced as an organization.  Change is inevitable and makes you experience every emotion there is.  We have new staff and board members and a very solid team.  I want to acknowledge the tremendous amount of work our founders and predecessors put in to building such an amazing organization.  I also want to take this time to thank my friends, Charles Wilkinson, Three Affiliated Tribes Fish & Wildlife Game Warden (GP Region Director 2017-2023); Dinalyn Spears, Narragansett Indian Tribe Community Planner/Natural Resources (NE Region Director 2009-2023) and Elveda Martinez, Walker River Paiute Tribe Water Resources Coordinator (SW Region Director 2012-2023, President 2019-2023) for their collective 31 years of service to the NAFWS membership.  Of course, we will still see them as they remain valuable members of NAFWS.  Last year we added the Deputy Executive Director to help with management of NAFWS.  I was fortunate to work with Robert Romero almost the entire time I have been Executive Director and value the impact he has made with our Conservation Law Enforcement Officer training and technical assistance.  I want to thank Robert for everything he has done for NAFWS, our staff, membership, partners and especially for me as he retires (again 😊) this March.  Please find Robert’s message further in this newsletter.

We focused a lot on planning in 2023.  We completed a 3-year strategic plan that the Board approved at the December meeting.  Staff developed a training plan for 2024 with many new exciting events.  We plan to highlight both plans on the website soon but have included information in this newsletter.  We are deep into the planning for our 41st Annual National Conference to be held May 13-16 hosted by the Prairie Island Indian Community at their fabulous Treasure Island Resort & Casino in Welch, MN.  We are currently seeking abstracts and will continue to add information on our website.  We hope to see you all there!

I finished the last quarter of 2023 with a lot of travel, attending a project management training for NAFWS team leaders sponsored by First Nations Development Institute in Denver, CO; attending and presenting at The Wildlife Society Annual Conference in Louisville, KY; visiting the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in NC and presenting at the Intertribal Agriculture Council Annual Conference in Las Vegas, NV.  I enjoy seeing all the hard work in Indian Country around fish and wildlife.  I had several Native early career professionals and students come and talk with me at TWS Conference, reminding me that we need to continue to tell our stories.

There was not much movement of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (S. 1149) in the last quarter.  However, we remain committed to seeing it pass and actively participate in the RAWA Alliance. Please continue to tell your stories to your communities, leadership and State, Federal, and private partners.  We must continue to stress the importance of Tribes’ need for base funding for fish and wildlife.

We were encouraged by the nearly $50 million awarded to Tribes through the America the Beautiful Challenge Grants in 2023.  The overall request of $320 M plus, further highlights the need for dedicated, annual funding for Tribal fish and wildlife programs. NAFWS Grant Team is ready to help continue Tribes’ success in the ATBC grants in 2024.

We ended our year with a staff retreat/work week the last week of November and our annual Board of Director’s meeting December 1 and 2 in Denver, CO.  We completed a ton of planning, developed new opportunities for NAFWS membership, welcomed new staff and Board members, and enjoyed each other’s company bowling and visiting.  We are ready to continue to serve our membership with the conservation, enhancement and preservation of Tribal fish and wildlife resources. As always, if you have ideas for the NAFWS, please contact me or your regional director(s).

Pilamaye ye,
Julie Thorstenson, PhD (Lakota)
Executive Director

Tribal Highlights: National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Funding in Action

Recent funding opportunities from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation including the America the Beautiful Challenge and the National Coastal Resilience Fund have led to an unprecedented and much needed injection of capital to Tribal fish and wildlife conservation. The following articles highlight how these funds are being put into action.

United Keetoowah Band Of Cherokee Indians Awarded Funds To Restore Endangered River Cane Ecosystems

Awarded funding through the America the Beautiful Challenge grant program, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians is restoring endangered river cane ecosystems and preserving Keetowah traditions. Continue reading.

Highlighting Tribal National Coastal Resilience Fund Recipients National Coastal Resilience Fund Recipients

The Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the Tulalip Tribes, and the Lummi Nation were awarded funding through the National Coastal Resilience Fund (NCRF). In NAFWS’ capacity as an NCRF liaison, staff members visited the Tribes to highlight how the funding is being implemented to restore coastal ecosystems and protect coastal communities. Continue reading.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Begins Work on America the Beautiful Challenge Project

Hannah Golden, Fish & Wildlife Biologist, and Julie Thorstenson, Executive Director, conducted a site visit to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) as part of the America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC) awardee program.

The primary focus of EBCI’s project is the establishment of an interagency planning collaboration dedicated to conserving rare and culturally significant species within the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian landscape. The project aims to develop data management and modeling tools informed by Tribal values, providing a framework for the Tribe’s conservation efforts.
During the visit, Hannah and Julie received updates on the project’s current status and gained insights into the planned next steps. Additionally, they had the opportunity to explore other ongoing projects on EBCI’s land, engage in an elk survey, and participate in discussions with wildlife professionals.

Hannah and Julie were provided with a comprehensive tour of EBCI’s land, offering them a firsthand view of the landscape’s natural beauty, including waterfalls. During this tour, they had the opportunity to build valuable relationships with the wildlife department staff, engaging in insightful discussions and strengthening collaborative ties. This experience further enriched their understanding of the local ecosystem and contributed to the exchange of knowledge between the visiting team and EBCI’s dedicated wildlife professionals.

Our sincere thanks to the Eastern Band of Cherokee for hosting this informative visit. We look forward to observing the continued progress of the Tribe’s conservation initiatives.

America the Beautiful Challenge Awardees Announced

The National Fish and Wildlife Federation announced the awardees of the 2023 America the Beautiful Challenge. In the second round of AtBC funding, 21 Tribal Nations were awarded funding totalling 40% of the $50 million available. NAFWS is proud to serve as ATBC Tribal Field Liaison and support Tribal applicants. Continue reading.

Winter Regional Conferences

Pacific Regional Conference

The 2023 Pacific Regional Conference was hosted by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe on October 16-19, 2023 at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel in Worley, ID. The conference was attended by 24 participants representing 16 Tribes.

The conference began with a performance by the all-female drum group, the Rose Creek Singers followed by opening remarks by the Coeur D’Alene Tribal Vice Chairman, Hemene James, a department overview by Ralph Allan, Jr. The keynote speaker, Donald Sampson, Executive Director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, spoke about engaging native youth and restoring our natural resources. Attendees heard presentations on topics including salmon restoration, invasive species, and wetland restoration, participated in workshops on wildlife corridors and the NAFWS HuntSafe program, and toured the Coeur d’Alene eagle aviary.

CLEO: Six CLEOs from three Tribes attended conference training. See the CLEO Update for more information and shoot team results.
Election results: Donna Nez, Fisheries Technician for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, was re-elected Pacific Regional Director.

Northeast Regional Conference

On November 6-9, 2023, Penobscot Nation hosted the 2023 Northeast Regional Conference in Millinocket, ME. Fourteen participants representing seven Tribal Nations attended the conference. The Burnurwurbskek Singers at the opening ceremonies followed by an overview of Penobscot Nation’s fish and wildlife management efforts by the Director of Natural Resources, Chuck Loring. Penobscot Nation Historian Maria Girouard delivered the keynote speech. Additionally, attendees had the opportunity to visit the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

Election results: Jason Mitchell, Water Resources Field Coordinator of the Penobscot Nation, was elected Northeast Regional Director.

The Northeast Regional Directors Dinalyn Spears (outgoing), Ben Simpson, and Jason Mitchell (incoming).

Staff and Board Updates

NAFWS is happy to welcome Jason Mitchell, Water Resources Field Coordinator for the Penobscot Nation Department of Natural Resources, as the new Northeast Regional Director. Katie Schultz and Andy Edwards also joined our team as Field Liaisons for the America the Beautiful Challenge Fund. Read bios.


Conservation Law Enforcement Officer Update

Robert Romero, Deputy Executive Director

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you all had an exceptional holiday season and that this message finds you all in great health.

In the final quarter of 2023, NAFWS supported the Pacific and Northeast Regional Conferences.  The Pacific Conference was hosted by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and held from October 16-19, 2023, in Worley, Idaho.  A total of six regional CLEOs, from three different Tribes, attended the conference and participated in a legal updates presentation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office – Eastern District of WA; and a drug identification/awareness, including legal challenges, presentation by the BIA OJS Division of Drug Enforcement.  Three CLEOs participated in the PPC which resulted in the following:

1st place  – Gregory Moses, Nez Perce Tribe.  Score of 1,1616.
2nd place – Lee Whiteplume, Nez Perce Tribe.  Score of 1,536.
3rd place – Richard Axtman, Coeur d’Alene Tribe.  Score of 1,359.

*Pacific may schedule another PPC for officers who were not able to attend.  Those scores will be used to identify the overall Top Gun and Pacific Shoot Team for the 2024 Annual National NAFWS Conference.

Pacific Regional Conference PPC – Worley, ID

The Northeast Regional Conference was held from November 6-9, 2023, in Millinocket, Maine; however, a CLEO track was not established for this conference.  We will certainly continue to focus our efforts to improve communication among the officers within the region, and solicit their involvement with the NAFWS CLEO initiative. 

One training opportunity that was postponed until the spring of 2024 that is worthy of mentioning is the Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services tracking class.  This course will be sponsored by the NAFWS, the Great Lakes CLEO Program and the Pokagon Band of Pottawatomi Indians and the projected timeline for the training is April 2024.

Thank you and see you down the road

As many of you may already be aware, I have made the decision to step down from my position as the NAFWS Deputy Executive Director by early March 2024 to, once again, enjoy retirement.  After reflecting on my different roles with the Society over nearly four years, I can honestly say that this has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding work experiences of my career.  Without hesitation, I attribute my successes in this organization to all the people I’ve met along the way.  We all share a similar belief – to protect Tribal fish and wildlife resources for our respective communities with a commitment that is inherent and never ending.

I have been fortunate to have worked with such a gifted group of NAFWS Staff, Board of Directors and Contractors who I admire and who I’ve grown so close to…after all, we are all a big family, right?  I’ve also had the privilege to meet and work with so many NAFWS members, law enforcement and non-law enforcement alike, who have truly inspired me with their dedication to all levels of natural resource management.  It’s these relationships that makes my departure bittersweet.

Thank you NAFWS Staff, Board, Contractors and membership for your patience and support.  Thank you, Julie Thorstenson, for your guidance, sound leadership and infinite vision for such an incredible organization.  

This was truly a hard decision, but one that I feel is best for me and my family at this time in our lives.  I’ll be forever grateful to have been a part of NAFWS family, and I know that we’ll see each other again – somehow, somewhere, sometime – to share more laughs and make more memories!

With highest regards,

Education Update

Happy New Year! It has been windy as ever in the Northern Front Range – we are inside the office and in planning mode as we close our 2023 and looking forward to 2024. 

In October, some NAFWS staff attended the American Indian in Science/Engineering Society (AISES) annual national conference in Spokane, WA. It was great to see rooms full of amazing and intelligent Native emerging professionals, definitely inspiring. NAFWS made a lot of new connections, shared our education programs and opportunities. We hope to continue to attend AISES annual national conferences to continue to interact with students and professionals by sharing what great events and programs NAFWS has.

The last couple of months of 2023, NAFWS staff and board were using time to reflect on the past year’s programs and strategically planning for the upcoming new year. Additionally, we have worked with setting up dates for the 2023 Professional Development Webinar Series and 2024 National Summer Youth Practicum (July 21 – 28, 2024). See below for fliers. 

Keep your ears up and eyes wide for our upcoming youth opportunities, due dates and applications.  

If you have any ideas, comments, questions regarding the NAFWS youth programs and outreach, Contact Us.

The Bio Corner

Laurel James, Director of Programs

Happy New Year from the BIO Team! 

Please mark your calendars as the Bio Team has many opportunities for spring engagement through planned webinars, working groups and trainings. Keep an eye on our webpage for additional information or contact a team member for more information. 

Virtual Events

Jan 30 Tribal Wildlife Corridors Working Group
Feb 14 Reptile/Amphibian Working Group
Feb 15 Ungulate Working Group – Bighorn Sheep
Feb 20 Tribal Wildlife Corridors Working Group
Feb 21 Roadkill & Wildlife Vehicle Collision Data Webinar
Feb 28 Intro to NASA Collaboration and Resources for Tribes
Mar 7 Wolf Working Group
Mar 13 Pollinator Working Group
Mar 25-26 NEPA
March 26 Tribal Wildlife Corridors Working Group
Apr 18 Ungulate Working Group – CWD
April 30 Tribal Wildlife Corridors Working Group
TBD Bat Conservation Webinar

In-person Trainings

Apr 15-19 Reptile/Amphibian Survey Techniques Workshop
Host Tribe: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
April 23-24 Riparian Restoration Training
Host Tribe: Santa Clara Pueblo

For more information, please keep an eye on our website or Contact Us.

Invasive Species Team

New Year, New Opportunities

Going into 2024, the NAFWS Invasive Species Team is excited to expand on the information obtained from our networking calls, emails, and regional conferences conversations. It’s been an eventful season for the Invasive Species Team. Since our last update, we joined NAFWS regional conferences to provide program updates, presentations, and a few regionally requested workshops to continue reaching out to our members, Tribes, and tribal managers. Before closing out the year activities, the Team had the opportunity to meet in-person in Denver this past November during our annual staff retreat to strategize in how to take the needs identified and developing opportunities to assist Tribes based on what was learned.

Beginning in 2024, we will be kicking off a monthly webinar series to open dialogue on invasive species management, as well as highlight Tribal programs and the work they do. One common statement identified is that “Tribes learn best from other Tribes”, so we wanted to build on that concept. The webinar series will start with our own Thomas Hafen, Invasive Species Coordinator, who will be presenting on the “Principles of Early Detection and Rapid Response” on January 31, 2024, at 2 pm Mountain Time. The Invasive Species Webinar Series will be scheduled for every last Wednesday of each month. If you are interested in sharing your expertise as part of this webinar series, reach out any of our Team to learn how. Look to our social media outlets on how to join us for this monthly series. We are excited for 2024 and look forward to what all is to come.

Lastly, we announced that we are planning an Invasive Species Workshop at our 41st NAFWS National Conference in Welch, Minnesota on May 13, 2024. Let’s get together to share knowledge on invasive species issues and concerns in your respective regions. Feel free to reach out to any of the Invasive Species Team if you would like more information on the workshop or want to discuss anything invasive. If you are interested in being a presenter at the conference, the call for abstracts is currently open and submissions are due March 1, 2024 at 10pm MT.

Upcoming Events

The 2024 NAFWS Annual National Conference will take place on May 13-16, 2024 hosted by the Prairie Island Indian Community at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Welch, Minnesota. Abstracts submissions are due March 1, 2024 at 10pm MT. Limited travel assistance is available for presenters and students. Travel scholarship applications are due March 1, 2024 at 10pm MT.

Upcoming Trainings

Funding Opportunities

NAFWS serves as a hub for funding opportunities available to Tribes. Below are current opportunities for funding. We work to consistently keep you apprised of new funding so be sure to check our Funding Resources Page periodically!

  • Empowering Indigenous Peoples and Enhancing Climate Adaptation by Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge: The CEC will support projects and partnerships that are led by or promote the active participation of Indigenous governments, organizations, communities and individuals in recognition of their Indigenous rights and knowledge systems pertaining to environmental decision-making. The projects must be inclusive and foster Indigenous leadership and self-determination. They may also support the development of solutions adapted to the needs, priorities and systems prevailing in the communities where they are implemented. Indeed, applying Indigenous Knowledge also implies recognition of and respect for Indigenous knowledge systems and, in many cases, shared jurisdiction on environmental activities and decisions. This recognition includes ways of life, relations to the spirits and natural world, the gender-based roles, modes of knowledge transmission and decision-making, etc. Proposals due Jan 18, 2024 at 5PM EST.
  • Rapid Response Fund for Aquatic Invasive Species: As part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law authorization for ecosystem restoration, the Department of the Interior invested $1 million to establish a pilot Rapid Response Fund for Aquatic Invasive Species with an additional $1 million envisioned each year 2024 through 2026 as part of advancing a National Early Detection and Rapid Response Framework. To streamline the application process, proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis, or until the Rapid Response Fund is depleted. 

Position Openings

  • NAFWS Deputy Executive Director – The Deputy Executive Director (Deputy) serves as a trusted advisor under the direct supervision of the Executive Director (ED) to advance the mission of the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society (NAFWS) by providing leadership, strategic direction, guidance and supervision.
  • NAFWS Tribal Mapping (GIS) Analyst– The Tribal Mapping Analyst will focus on several key issues in collaboration with Tribes and the US Geological Survey (USGS).  Applicants must have a specialized knowledge of ArcGIS, R Programming, Python with demonstrated ability in applying statistical methods to animal movement data.
  • NAFWS Public Information Officer– The PIO will be responsible for implementing a creative communication strategy or network in order to enhance the visibility of Native American Tribal Natural Resource Programs and Native peoples. This will include promoting the exchange of information related to Tribal fish and wildlife management techniques and policy initiatives in a way that meets the organization’s mission and goals through media relations and public outreach initiatives.

As always, we have so much on our calendars to look forward to. Be sure to check out our events page regularly for in person trainings, events, and webinars to help in your professional development! We also have our job board that is chalk full of new internal as well as external jobs updated daily! Take a look and if you are wanting to have a job posted, please Contact Us with your position!

NAFWS in the News

The Endangered Species Act at 50 & What’s Next for Wildlife: As the Endangered Species Act turns 50, conservationists call for increased funding for at-risk species through the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

U.S. Department Of Transportation Awards $110 Million In Grants For Wildlife Crossings: The US DOT announced grant recipients for the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program. Grantees include four Tribal Nations for the planning and construction of wildlife crossings to improve habitat connectivity, protect culturally significant wildlife, and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.

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In Recognition of Their Support

The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society would like to thank those organizations that provided us with support over the years. With them we grew an effective national communications network for the exchange of information and management techniques related to self-determined tribal fish and wildlife management.

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