Tribal Wildlife Grant Program Benefits FWS Lake
Sturgeon Restoration Efforts
BY DOUG ALOISI GENOA NFH
This spring the Red Lake Tribe of Chippewa of northern Minnesota was pleased to accept an award of $197,000 for lake sturgeon restoration on reservation lands. The Tribal Wildlife Grant Program (TWG) provides a competitive funding opportunity for federally recognized Tribal governments to develop and implement programs for the benefit of wildlife and their habitat, including species of Native American cultural or traditional importance and species that are not hunted or fished.
Lake sturgeon are culturally important to many Midwestern tribes. Lake sturgeon provided a source of protein to many tribes when fish were congregated on their spring spawning runs. This plentiful source of food after many days of a long hard winter sustained their health and wellbeing. The Genoa National Fish Hatchery has been a conservation partner of the Red Lake tribe for many years by providing fish to support tribal fish management goals and helping the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) meet its tribal trust responsibilities.
Genoa NFH began raising lake sturgeon in the early 1990’s and has recently implemented capital improvements that allow the hatchery to rear 40,000 fingerlings yearly to support restoration efforts throughout the Midwest. Pat Brown, Natural Resource manager for the Red Lake Tribe knew of these expanded capacities and began considering how to use the Genoa facility and its capabilities to bring lake sturgeon back to the Red River watershed on tribal lands. As a result of Pat’s efforts to secure funding the USFWS was able to use its expertise in lake sturgeon biology and propagation to secure eggs from a local source in southern Canada and to be transported to the Genoa hatchery for rearing.
Currently, 10,000 five inch fingerlings are growing and waiting anxiously to be planted in tribal waters in October of this year. This will mark the sixth year of fingerling stocking in the 10 year tribal sturgeon restoration plan. Other components to the grant and restoration program including post stocking survival assessments to monitor success. So far results have been encouraging, with post stocking survival high and growth rates comparable to the Lake Winnebago strain of lake sturgeon, a healthy sturgeon population located in central Wisconsin.