Giving Tribes More Support to Maintain Wildlife Habitat
Monday, February 14, 2022
Native American tribes manage millions of acres of wildlife habitat but face inequities in securing conservation funds. A bill in Congress would provide a boost in carrying out projects.
The Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act would set aside $50 million each year for a grant program. Bill sponsors say it would ensure Tribal Nations have the resources to implement and maintain corridors for various species.
Shailyn Miller - wildlife connectivity coordinator with the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society - said roads and other development interfere with wildlife migration, and tribes often don't have funds to shield lands from these disruptions.
"Tribes are severely underfunded and at a huge disadvantage due to extremely limited resources," said Miller, "especially when compared to state or federal wildlife agencies."
The plan also calls for coordination among federal and state agencies with respect to property rights of tribes. It's unclear yet if the proposal faces any opposition.
It was introduced back in August and last week the National Wildlife Federation sent a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to support the bill. The South Dakota chapter is among those joining calls for its passage.
Chris Hesla is the executive director of the South Dakota Wildlife Federation. He said he sees this as a vital initiative as the state continues to see wetlands dry up.
"It's just important that there's a tool out there for the tribes to be able to enter into these agreements and work projects on their land," said Hesla.
He suggested it could aid existing projects like one that's been developing on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation.
In recent years, conservationists have been trying to boost the population of a threatened species known as the black-footed ferret. Project leaders say it's been difficult to compete for grants through other federal programs.
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