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Native American tribes are in a unique situation. With an ever advancing tribal natural resources agenda, they encounter issues along the way. Some of these include the following:
- Pressures for Development of Land (for recreational use)
- Treaty Rights threatened
- Tribes' ability to manage reduced
- Jurisdictions overlap
- Tribes losing land base
To address some of these pressing issues, a group of Intertribal natural resource organizations have pulled together to host a tribal natural resource conference. These organizations may propose and prioritize issues and recommendations and how to address them.
This collaborative group though in the initial stage strives to develop an integrative action plan. With the current administration supportive of tribes contributes to increased opportunities for tribes. Realizing the potential outcomes, the coalition seeks to provide the following:
- Clear and concise message to Congress and promote dialogue between tribal leadership, resource professionals, federal and state agencies, environmental organizations and industry through sharing of information.
- A unified tribal natural resources strategy
- Overview of tribal needs in order to support tribal natural resource initiatives and programs, etc...
As a non-profit organization, the Society's mission is to assist Native American and Alaska Native Tribes with the conservation, protection, and enhancement of their fish and wildlife resources.
As a 501(c)(3) public charitable non-profit Colorado corporation, all contributions are tax-deductible in accordance with IRS regulations.
The Society's purposes are charitable, educational, scientific and cultural, as well as the following:
- To assist in the facilitation and coordination of inter-tribal communication in regards to fish and wildlife matters, including issues with treaty rights, court cases related to fish and wildlife, and hunting and fishing regulations.
- To protect, preserve and conserve the wise use and management of tribal fish, wildlife, and recreation resources.
- To educate Native Americans involved in fish and wildlife management, policy decision makers, community members and others similarly dedicated to tribal natural resource management, of the best management practices.
- To provide administrative support, expertise and advice to tribal governments, relating to tribal fish, wildlife and recreation resources.
- To improve the general welfare of tribal people through educational, charitable, as well as fish and wildlife enhancement activities.
- To provide professional publications and promotional activities for disseminating information about Native American fish and wildlife resources to members, organizations, public officials, and the general public.
The Native American Fish & Wildlife Society (NAFWS) is a national tribal organization established informally during the early 1980's. NAFWS was incorporated in 1983 to develop a national communications network for the exchange of information and management techniques related to self-determined tribal fish and wildlife management.
Federally-recognized Indian tribes within the lower 48 United States have jurisdiction over a reservation land base of more than 52 million acres, or 81,250 square miles. Alaskan Native lands comprise another 45 million acres. Some tribes control resources outside of reservations due to federal court decisions and voluntary cooperative agreements which allow a co-management status between tribes and states. These lands are called Ceded and Usual and Accustomed Areas and equal over 38 million acres. In these areas, tribes maintain co-management jurisdiction for fisheries and wildlife management and utilization. Thus, tribal lands coupled with the Ceded and Usual and Accustomed Areas total a natural resource base of over 140,625 square miles, containing more than 730,000 acres of lakes and impoundments, and over 10,000 miles of streams and rivers. This land combined would constitute the fifth largest state in the United States.
To Native Americans this land provides a cultural, religious, and economic subsistence base. This substantial resource base is also being utilized by both Indians and non-Indians for outdoor recreation purposes. These areas constitute an additional wilderness resource for the country. They contain habitat which is critical to the recovery of a number of species that are listed as threatened or endangered, from fish and birds to big game.
Asserting Their Rights
Tribes are being recognized as prominent fisheries and wildlife managers as they assert their treaty rights concerning management of their fish and wildlife resources.
Tribes may want to ensure that the environmental quality of their life and that of the fish and wildlife are not threatened. As demand for fisheries and wildlife recreational facilities grows, so does the pressure upon tribal resources. Today, Indian reservations contribute significantly toward meeting the national demand for fishing and hunting opportunities. Unfortunately, the funding options open to tribes have not kept pace with the expanding cost for management and authority of these fish and wildlife resources.
Preserving Our Precious Resouces
Ensuring the vast resource base are kept in tact for future generations, the NAFWS aims to support tribal decision-makers towards astute natural resource management. Native Americans continually demonstrate environmental sensitivity towards the earth's precious resources and are looked to by many to 'show the way' to replenish the earth's resources. In today's changing world, however, tribes are faced with a complexity of situations demanding a marriage of traditional management practices with the cutting-edge of biological management. This task places enormous strain on those in leadership and management roles. These leaders are charged not only with the maintenance of diminishing resources, but with the responsibility of shaping resource management into a flexible entity sensitive to the needs and concerns of Native Americans. To this end, the Society strives to provide assistance to tribes and tribal leadership, and support them in their self-determined march towards a secure natural resource future.