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Meeting with our Native American Partners

Federal and Tribal leaders stand together after welcoming remarks at the 2018 annual Native American fish and Wildlife Society meeting.

Federal and Tribal leaders stand together after welcoming remarks at the 2018 annual Native American fish and Wildlife Society meeting. Photo by Alejandro Morales/USFWS.

By Alejandro Morales
Regional Office - External Affairs

From September 23 – 26, 2018, staff from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, biologists and conservation law enforcement officers of federally recognized tribes in the Midwest, gathered to discuss, learn and understand current wildlife conservation research, projects and management breakthroughs at the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society Great Lakes Region’s annual meeting.

This year’s gathering was hosted and welcomed by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Chairperson, Matthew Wesaw and the Natural Resources Department Director, Jennifer Kanine. The traditional opening ceremony of the conference featured a parade of colors to honor the veterans and native american fish and wildlife conservation officers across the region. Welcoming and prayer songs were performed by Ribbor Town drum group and an invocation was provided by Clarence White. The traditional welcoming and opening ceremonies emphasized how landowners, outdoor organizations, state, tribal and federal landowners can do their part in reminding each citizen the importance of outdoor recreation and the need to continue conservation efforts.

During this meeting, tribal conservation officers participated in training topics including firearms and pepper spray recertification, defensive tactics, feather identification, simulated ammunition and ethics training. Tribal and federal biologists also learned from one another through a variety of biological and ecological information sessions. The Service hosted five sessions for the benefit of conference attendees:

Asian Carp Monitoring on the Illinois River: The Service works with multiple agencies to prevent the establishment of bighead, silver, grass and black carp in the Great Lakes. All four species of carp can potentially decimate aquatic vegetation, mussel fauna, native planktivores (as competitors for food and space). By developing control and monitoring technologies, such as eDNA surveillance, contracted commercial harvest, electric dispersal barriers and other deterrents like complex sound, we are working to prevent further spread of these species.

Great Lakes Basin Aquatic Invasive Species Early Detection and Monitoring Programs: Early intensive and coordinated efforts to detect aquatic invasive species (fish and benthic macroinvertebrates), prior to their successful establishment and spread is critical. Conducting annual aquatic species assessments in the Great Lakes has provided useful information. For example, bloody red shrimp and banded mystery snail were detected recently for the first time in Lake Superior; however, no new non-native species have been detected thus far in Lake Michigan. Our Early Detection and Monitoring Program aims to be adaptive, effective and efficient in combatting aquatic invasive species.

Electrofishing Survey and Safety Class: Electrofishing is a valuable tool in establishing distribution and abundance of Asian carps in the Illinois River. Biologists from the Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office demonstrated the ways electrofishing can be used in multiple habitats and systems. Tribal biological technicians were presented with a background in electrofishing as well as a safety training prior to going to the river to get hands on field experience. While on site, staff went over the safety and hazards of electrofishing. Crews applied the newly learned technique to capture, identify and release fish.

The effects of White Nosed Bat Syndrome and Bat Mortality: White-nose syndrome and wind energy development are two significant sources of mortality in Michigan’s bats. In Michigan, white-nose syndrome was detected in 2014 and is now statewide. Hibernating populations in the state are down by an average of 84% and the disease has led to significant declines in 4 of the 9 bat species in the state. In the Midwest, estimated bat fatality rates from wind turbines are variable and range from 3 to 32 bats per megawatt annually. Efforts to reduce bat mortality include raising awareness, supporting white-nose syndrome research, testing disease treatments and recommending bat-friendly wind operation strategies.

Meet our Native American Liaisons for an Open Discussion: Regional Office staff, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan Native American Liaisons invited tribal biologists, natural resource directors and leaders to an open discussion. Topics covered included: Tribal Wildlife Grants, migratory bird hunting, government to government consultation and eagle feather distribution from the National Eagle Feather Repository. By strengthening our working relationship with our federally recognized tribal partners we are able to better co-manage natural resources for the benefit of the American people.

“The Great Lakes Native American FIsh and Wildlife meeting is a great venue to better understand the natural resource priorities of Midwest Region tribes and the substantial role they play in managing those resources,” said Christie Delora-Sheffield, Service Native American Liaison for Michigan tribes. “We not only have a responsibility to tribes under the various treaties between the tribes and the U.S. Government, but we have a lot to learn and gain from working collaboratively on shared conservation priorities. The annual meeting highlights those shared priorities and helps catalyzes new relationships that benefit both tribes and the Service.”

As a federal agency, we are dedicated to partnering with federally recognized tribes in conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people, including tribal members across the Midwest Region.

Last updated: October 11, 2018