Since its inception in 2003, the competitive Tribal Wildlife Grants (TWG) Program has awarded more than $111.6 million to federally recognized Native American and Alaska Native Tribes, providing support for more than 626 conservation projects. These grants benefit a wide range of fish, wildlife, and habitats, including species of Native American and Alaska Native cultural or traditional importance.
By reducing threats to these species, the TWG Program directly benefits many Tribes, whose members depend on these species for subsistence, cultural uses, and their livelihoods. Tribes use certain species as traditional food sources, and species of cultural importance are a necessary component of Tribal sovereignty.
Using a multi-partner approach that often involves inter-Tribal organizations, state and federal agencies, and volunteers, Tribes often utilize TWG Program funds as “seed” money to launch key programs, facilities, and partnerships. TWG Program funds also support capacity building for Tribal natural resources agencies to address species and landscape conservation. “In today’s changing world, Tribal nations are faced with a complexity of conservation challenges requiring both traditional management practices and cutting-edge science and management,” said DJ Monette, Associate Native American Liaison Advisor. “Tribal Wildlife Grants Program funding is essential to support Tribal conservation and stewardship efforts, and helps foster resource management that is sensitive to the needs and concerns of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.”
The TWG Program has helped Tribes achieve numerous conservation successes over the past two decades. One early success in the TWG Program occurred in 2004 when the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma received funds to establish an eagle aviary, now known as the Grey Snow Eagle House, to rehabilitate and nurse sick or injured eagles back to health for eventual release back to the wild. The aviary also provides a lifelong sanctuary for eagles whose wounds prevent them from returning to the wild. The eagles benefit as does the Tribe, whose members can use the birds’ molted feathers for Native American religious use. The Grey Snow Eagle House also has an education program which teaches the public about the conservation of eagles, raptors, and Native American beliefs and a research program in partnership with Oklahoma State University to develop genetically based conservation tools for bald and golden eagles.
Other recent TWG Program supported efforts include:
- Endangered California Condor, known as Prey-go-neesh to the Yurok, once lived in the Greater Yurok Ancestral Region of northern California. By the end of the 19th century, condor populations had dropped dramatically in the region, and by 1967 the California Condor was listed as federally endangered. To support conservation efforts the Yurok Tribe combined funding from the TWG Program with the Tribe’s resources and support from other partners to implement key actions for condor recovery and reintroduction. These actions included hunter outreach to reduce impacts from lead ammunition, supporting the design and construction of a condor management facility to treat chronic lead exposure, and developing a plan for reintroducing California Condors into the Greater Yurok Ancestral Region and Redwood National Park. With support from the TWG Program and many partners, the Yurok Tribe successfully released the first pair of condors in Redwood National and State Parks in 2022.
- The Chickaloon Native Village of Alaska implemented a juvenile salmon research project in the Matanuska Watershed to obtain important data for salmon management. Supported through TWG Program funding, Tribal Fisheries Technicians collected data on juvenile Chinook and Coho salmon in Moose Creek. Technicians also collected baseline water quality data on Moose Creek and other tributaries of the Matanuska River. The collected data is being used to protect salmon habitats during important salmon life stages and the information collected will help educate youth and the greater community about the species, and help ensure that this culturally-significant resource is preserved for generations to come.
- The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana was recently awarded TWG Program funding to restore rivercane (Arundinaria tecta) on the tribal reservation. The Tunica-Biloxi Indian Reservation is located just south of Marksville in east central Louisiana with approximately 1,717 acres of Trust and Fee property in Avoyelles and Rapides Parishes. The reintroduction of rivercane to this area will play a crucial role in restoring and enhancing habitat for various species, including local whitetail deer, native black bear, and butterfly larvae. Rivercane will provide food and cover, contributing to the overall well-being of these wildlife populations. Alongside the rivercane restoration efforts, the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe also seeks to plant longleaf pine trees (Pinus palustris) to provide essential food sources for native birds and nesting habitats for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
- Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians is using TWG Program funds to gather information on marten in the Ceded Territory. Currently there is a lack of information pertaining to the population status and abundance of marten on the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians reservation. TWG Program funds are being used to assess the status and stability of the American marten in the Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan and on the reservation. This project seeks to document the presence and absence of martens in order to define the current marten population distribution, create a population estimate, define possible habitats, develop forest management best practices, and assist with marten dispersal and reestablishment in the region.
- The Chickasaw Nation Kullihoma Reservation received TWG Program funding for their Waterfowl Habitat Management Project to identify, enhance, and protect vital waterfowl habitats on the Kullihoma Reservation in Oklahoma. For decades the Chickasaw Nation has acted as a steward of the lands within their treaty territory, and TWG Program funds will provide the Nation with an opportunity to continue this commitment. This project will benefit many native species within this area including wading birds, reptiles, amphibians, and aquatic furbearers. This project will also enhance waterfowl habitats through the installation of duck nesting boxes, planting crops to provide nutrition and sanctuary for waterfowl, and will provide protection and preservation for surrounding wetlands for generations.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida lands span across 88,143 acres of the Florida Everglades and contain a diversity of habitats and sensitive wildlife species. TWG funds are being used to implement the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Wildlife Conservation Plan, which includes monitoring of threatened and endangered species and culturally significant species, early detection and eradication efforts of non-native species, the collation of species and habitat data in a GIS geodatabase, and community-based education regarding natural and cultural resource management.
Learn more about the conservation and stewardship supported through the Tribal Wildlife Grant Program and explore how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is partnering with Indigenous communities and fostering Indigenous connections at www.fws.gov/indigenous-connections-broadcast-series.