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Conservation in Indian Country: Strengthening Our Relationships with Tribes

As the conservation community faces immense challenges to make wildlife conservation relevant and important to a rapidly growing and changing society, we are privileged to have as partners Native American Tribes, who understand the value of their natural heritage. 

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Manager Charlie Blair talks with Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota Sioux.Credit: Charles Traxler/USFWS

With Tribes at our side, we have given many imperiled species a better chance in the modern world.

In the Southwest, I think about the efforts of the Pueblos with Rio Grande species like the silvery minnow and the Southwestern willow flycatcher.

Tribes have certainly been vital partners our ongoing work to recover the black-footed ferret.  Six of the 20 ferret reintroduction sites are on Tribal lands. I could go on for ages

I had the good fortune to help our team release about 20 ferrets on Lower Brule Tribal lands in central South Dakota a few years ago. It was one of the highlights of my conservation career. I want to expand and magnify that feeling of accomplishment and success, strengthening our partnership wherever possible.

That’s why I’m proud to announce the selection of Scott Aikin as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Native American Liaison.

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Want to Know How to Succeed at Conservation? Ask A Hunter

The folks at the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) invited me to speak at the association’s first-ever North American Whitetail Summit this week, and I jumped at the chance. 

deer hunters
A father and son spend time deer hunting at Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Missouri. Credit: Carol Weston

It’s hard to find anyone who has done more to sustain and conserve the nation’s natural resources than sportsmen and sportswomen. 

More hunters pursue whitetail deer than any other game species in the United States, and whitetail hunting contributes millions of dollars each year to local economies. 

All hunters play an integral part in conservation and always have. 

Throughout the country, you’ll find hunting groups getting young people interested in spending time outdoors, restoring habitat and financing conservation. 

Heck, without waterfowl hunters, we might not know the honks of geese or the quacks of ducks. 

Driven by the urgent threat of market hunting and later, the environmental catastrophe of the Dust Bowl, waterfowl hunters organized themselves a century ago to plan and build a solid future for waterfowl hunting.  

One part of that plan was the Federal Duck Stamp that waterfowl hunters are required to purchase and carry. Taxing themselves? What an out-of-the-box idea. It worked. Since 1934, the money from sales of Federal Duck Stamps has purchased or leased more than 6 million acres of wetlands habitat in the United States. 

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Bringing Nature to Las Vegas and Other Cities

Today I am at the grand opening of the new Desert National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in Nevada.

Desert NWR

Work goes on at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center. Credit: USFWS

It is a spectacular new building, built with revenue generated by the sale of public land … not from the pockets of the average taxpayers.

The 11,000-square-foot visitor center features exhibits, two classrooms/meeting rooms, offices and a bookstore. It is also loaded with environmentally friendly design elements, and the refuge is applying for the highest certification for sustainability from the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED Platinum.

What is great about Desert NWR and its new visitor center is that it is only 23 miles from the city of Las Vegas, a city with about 600,000 residents. The largest refuge in the lower 48 states, just a stone’s throw from the 31st largest city in the United States? Amazing.

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Last updated: August 31, 2011