Newsroom Midwest Region

Tribal trust partnership includes watercraft operations safety training

November 8, 2017

2017 Watercraft Operations Safety team and instructors. Photo by USFWS.
2017 Watercraft Operations Safety team and instructors. Photo by USFWS.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We take the “working with others” part of our mission seriously especially when it comes to working with our tribal partners and providing support that helps them to better manage their fish and wildlife resources.

Over the summer, Service instructors held a Motorboat and Airboat Safety Operational Training course for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Natural Resource Conservation, Law Enforcement and Emergency Response Officers at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This training was sought out by Mille Lacs Natural Resource Conservation Officer Jason Rice, to help his staff become more comfortable and familiar with the different style of boats owned by Mille Lacs Band.

“Our department is pretty young when it comes to experience on air and motorboats. Several of the staff have a few hours or years of experience and it’s important that we all learn more about safety protocols, maintenance and operations,” stated Rice. “With more knowledge on operation and safety skills, we can be a valuable asset to our tribal community members and other communities near Mille Lacs.”

The Mille Lacs Band owns two airboats that are available for use in emergency. For the Mille Lacs Band, the idea of being prepared for emergencies is essential for all officers and is strongly supported by their leadership. The participants learned standard operations procedures on what to do before, during and after an emergency, pre-launch checklists, safe operation, storage and maintenance. Even training on the water, they learned to operate at high and low speeds to avoid obstacles. The key is to give each student enough time to feel comfortable, especially those who have never operated an airboat.

"I have been a Midwest Region Fisheries employee for my whole Service career. I also worked on fisheries projects with most of the federally-recognized Tribes in the Great Lakes as well as the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. I have always valued our partnerships and tribal trust responsibilities. Providing these safety training courses for the Mille Lacs Band Officers was a true honor not for myself but as a testament to the Service’s mission to work with others,” stated Dave Wedan, Regional Watercraft Safety Coordinator. “The Mille Lacs Band’s Officers all did a great job in the summer course and we look forward to working with the Mille Lacs Band to set-up Winter Airboat and Ice-Rescue Training Courses.”

This partnership is a great example how we work with others to enhance our collective capacity for water and public safety. This is the Midwest Region’s second watercraft safety operator training effort with Tribes, as we completed motorboat, airboat and instructor courses with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa a few years ago. We’ll continue to work with federally recognized tribes to fulfill our tribal trust responsibility and mission of working with others for the continuing benefit of American people.

2017 Watercraft Operations Safety team and instructors. Photo by USFWS.
2017 Watercraft Operations Safety team and instructors. Photo by USFWS.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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