Grant helps educate tribes on drought management

By Ciji Taylor, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

With the help of a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service grant, the American Indian Inter Tribal Buffalo Council is working to make tribal lands more resilient to drought.

The Conservation Innovation Grant will give $640,000 to the council to help bridge the knowledge between 58 tribes spanning over one million acres in 19 states with a collect heard of more than 15,000 buffalo.

“The council’s mission is to restore bison to tribal land, which is subject to the whims of the land like fire, drought and carrying capacity,” Jim Stone, ITBC executive director, said.

To tribes, buffalo represent a way of life and are a critical part of the ecosystem, making their survival through drought a deep cultural significance, he added.

“American Indians were our nation’s first conservationists. This (grant) project will help make sure tribes have the resources and knowledge to improve and conserve land for their future generations,” Dr. Carol Crouch, NRCS National American Indian Special Emphasis Program manager, said.

The first step of the project will be an assessment of the impacts of drought across member tribes, their response to drought, and the effectiveness of the responses.  The findings will be used to create regional trainings and adoption of best management practices

“Often, our members don’t know where to get information or resources for drought. Our goal is to build a one-stop shop for tribes where they can easily access the most up-to-date information,” Stone said.

An online database will be created for tribes to find drought resources. It will include links to drought forecasts, drought funding assistance, management practices, and the data needed to fill out forms and grants for assistance.

“This is a big project to tackle, and we currently only have six staff members,” said Stone.

The grant allows the council to hire additional staff to help do drought assessments, trainings, the online database, and bring in other partners to help educate the tribes.

Overall, it’s a chance to protect the land, the buffalo, and a way of life, he added.

Visit NRCS’s website for more information on drought and CIG grants.


USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps America’s farmers and ranchers conserve the Nation’s soil, water, air and other natural resources. All programs are voluntary and offer science-based solutions that benefit both the landowner and the environment.

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Celebrating the Historic Ties of Native Americans to the Bison

Posted by Wildlife Conservation Society on March 1, 2013

By John Calvelli

 [Note: This is the third in a series of blogs by Calvelli celebrating the history and conservation of the American Bison.]

Native American groups joined with bison producers and conservation organizations in 2012 to initiate a campaign called Vote Bison. The campaign, which grew to include 35 coalition members across the nation, had a simple goal: to urge all members of the U.S. Congress to support the National Bison Legacy Act, which would designate the American bison as our country’s National Mammal.

The Vote Bison campaign continues in 2013 and is currently working with Congressional champions in the 113th Congress.The participation of Native American tribes derives from cultural and spiritual connections to the American bison, or buffalo, spanning many centuries – one that is richly reflected in Native American historical and religious narratives.

Read the rest of the article here.

A pair of American Bison at the Bronx Zoo. (Julie Larsen Maher/WCS)
A pair of American Bison at the Bronx Zoo. (Julie Larsen Maher/WCS)

Bison bill draws support from ranchers, opposition from tribes

Posted: Feb 1, 2013 10:20 AM by Marnee Banks – MTN News

HELENA – The Montana Senate Fish and Game committee is considering a comprehensive bison management bill.

Senator John Brenden’s (R-Scobey) Senate Bill 143 would establish a year round bison hunting season and prohibit any translocation of the species. He says he is bringing his bill in response to farmers and ranchers.

Bill Hoppe is an outfitter and rancher in Gardiner who says the bison come out of Yellowstone National Park and cause havoc on private land.

“Bison are very destructive, Hoppe testified. “While on our land they destroy trees, shrubbery, landscaping, then tear down huge amounts of fence.”

American Indian tribes testified against the bill, saying the bison is a spiritual animal and if the Legislature passes the bill it could face litigation.

Other opponents to the bill are calling it “radical” and say the bison should not be managed as a pest but instead as wildlife.

Greater Yellowstone Coalition Executive Director Mike Clark said there are three main reasons he opposes the bill.

“First it will completely disrupt the relationship between the federal government, the state and the tribe. Secondly, it will polarize people throughout this country over how the bison will be slaughtered. Thirdly, it will prevent the movement of healthy bison to the tribes,” Clark said.

The Senate Fish and Game committee will vote on the bill at a later date.