Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Program
Conserving America's Fisheries

Tribal Assistance

Flathead Catfish from San Carlos Lake, AZ. Photo: USFWS

Flathead Catfish from San Carlos Lake, AZ.


There are 561 Federally recognized tribes in the United States, including 225 villages in Alaska. All together, there are 55.7 million acres on 304 reservations. Many Indian lands have remained untouched by conventional land use practices and therefore are islands of high quality ecosystems, attracting many sensitive species. Reservations support important fish and wildlife resources, including antelope, apache trout, bighorn sheep, bison, elk, gila trout, mule deer, Pacific salmons, sturgeon, and whitetailed deer.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices provide technical assistance to Tribal governments as to any other State or Federal agencies. FWCO biologists help assess the fishery resources on reservations, for example, by developing fishery management plans, coordinating fish habitat improvement, and evaluating the results of management directives. By providing this fish and wildlife management assistance, FWCOs attend to important Federal obligations, improve the quality of life for Native Americans, and fulfill the agency’s mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.

Aerial Elk Survey on Wind River Reservation, WY. Photo: USFWS

Aerial Elk Survey on Wind River Reservation, WY.


Recent FWCO Tribal Assistance Projects Include:

  • The Green Bay NWFCO recently assisted the Oneida Conservation Department with a fishery population estimate on Osnu hsa Lake, WI. A two night mark recapture boomshocking assessment was used to estimate populations of bluegill and largemouth bass. Population estimates assist Tribal directors when making management decisions.

  • With more than 800 miles of streams and 2,300 acres of lakes, the Fort Apache Indian Reservation has more than one-third of the coldwater fishery resources in the state of Arizona. In 2008, the Arizona FWCO and the White Mountain Apache Tribe conducted 1 lake surveys, 10 stream surveys, water quality monitoring in 6 lakes and streams, assisted with 2 elk surveys, and mechanically controlled non-native trout in 4 streams.

  • In 2008, the Lander FWCO surveyed 54 sage grouse leks (i.e., breeding grounds) to determine relative abundance on the Wind River Reservation. Sage grouse are a native game species that are also culturally important to Tribal members. The best available method to assess populations has been the lek count. Leks are historic breeding grounds occupied by individual groups of birds and are ideal for monitoring changes in populations. Males observed on leks decreased 50% compared to 2007, due to lower chick survival and recruitment, and increased adult mortality from West Nile Virus. The decrease is likely due to poor chick survival and recruitment due to drought conditions and a decline in cottontail rabbits, an alternate prey species.
Last updated: April 17, 2012