Inside Region 3
Midwest Region
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Regional Director Tom Melius and White Earth Nation Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, along with tribal and refuge architects. Photo by Kelly Blackledge/USFWS.

Regional Director Tom Melius and White Earth Nation Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor, along with tribal and refuge architects. Photo by Kelly Blackledge/USFWS.

Collaborating for Conservation

October 20th marked a special day for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge and the White Earth Nation in what may be the first official collaboration between a Native American tribe and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement.

Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius met White Earth Nation Tribal Chairwoman Erma Vizenor and other tribal dignitaries before formalizing the agreement with a signing ceremony. This act commemorated the completion of a joint memorandum of understanding between the White Earth Nation and the refuge as it pertains to conservation law enforcement activities occurring on Tamarac Refuge.

"This agreement highlights our desire to work together with Native American tribes and collaborate for our mutual benefit," said Melius.

"We recognize the of importance of the unique relationship that Tamarac Refuge has with the White Earth Nation in the geographic sense, but more importantly in our common interest in preserving and sustaining natural and cultural resources for present and future generations," continued Melius.

The memorandum of understanding represents the culmination of more than five years of work. The collaborative nature that underscores this effort shows that there is a strong desire to work together on this document and this is only the beginning of shared enterprises for all involved.

In his remarks, Regional Director Melius extended his thanks to former White Earth Department of Natural Resources Director Mike Swan, current White Earth Department of Natural Resources Director Monica Hedstrom and Chief Conservation Officer Alfred Fox, as well as Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge Project Leader Neil Powers and Minnesota Zone Law Enforcement Officer Brent Taylor. Melius thanked all involved, both past and present architects, for their perseverance and leadership in developing this agreement.

Nationally, this agreement represents one of the first, if not the first, cooperative law enforcement memorandums of understanding between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a Native American tribe.

Dignitaries on hand to witness the historic event:

  • Erma Vizenor, White Earth Nation Tribal Chairwoman
  • Tom Melius, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Regional Director
  • Tara Mason, White Earth Tribal Council Secretary Treasurer
  • Kathy Goodwin, White Earth Tribal Council member, District 2 Representative
  • Steven “Punky” Clark, White Earth Tribal Council member, District 1 Representative
  • Monica Hedstrom, White Earth Natural Resources Department Director
  • Alfred Fox, Chief Conservation Officer, White Earth Natural Resources Department
  • Mike Swan, Spiritual Leader and Former Director White Earth Natural Resources Department
  • Brent Taylor, USFWS Minnesota Zone Law Enforcement Officer
  • Chris Jussila, USFWS Regional Refuge Law Enforcement Chief
  • Neil Powers, USFWS Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge Project Leader

By Tina Shaw
Regional Office - External Affairs

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge wetland by Tina Shaw/USFWS.

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge wetland. Photo by Tina Shaw/USFWS.


Last updated: November 5, 2014