Mark Trahant in Indian Country Today looks at the formation of the Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and how the tribes up there are drawing on the experience of tribes down here:
On May 8, 2015, 28 tribes on the Kuskokwim River started down another path, assuming co-management of fish in the river system by creating a Kuskokwim River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. It’s modeled on the Northwest Indian Fish Commission, an organization that was led for many years by the legendary Billy Frank Jr. (Frank is really an American hero. He went from being a “getting arrested guy” during the fish wars to a wise elder who was widely respected.) Mike William Sr. of Akiak, was elected chairman of the new commission.
“The people of the Kuskokwim River are no longer satisfied with serving in an advisory role to state and fishery managers,” says a news release from the new commission. “The message, Kuskokwim River tribes and rural residents desire a “meaningful role” in the management of fish and wildlife as it is expressed by Congress in section 801 (5) of the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act, a role that until now most Western Alaskans agree has been meaningless.
I am convinced that co-management works. In Washington, Oregon and in Idaho there are salmon streams that would have gone extinct without a broader, more comprehensive management approach. Even small tribes hire people to work on habitat restoration or protecting baby salmon from predators. And it’s hard to understate the importance of creating natural resource jobs because it gives Native people a new purpose, working on the land to improve wildlife.
A delegation from the NWIFC recently returned from visiting with the KRITFC tribes last week. They were able to be on hand for the official start of the new fish commission.