6 Environmental Wins Native Americans Achieved in 2013

Is it me, or are environmental wellness articles always really depressing? With all the rising temperatures, acidifying oceans and suffering wildlife, it doesn’t so much inspire you to action as it does make you want to crawl into bed and never again venture into the big wide world. Yes, the planet’s wellbeing is under threat and we should definitely talk about that, but what about the good things, the triumphs that the environment has experienced recently? For those, we turn to Native Americans, who, in the past year, have reintroduced fading species, restored habitats and stopped big industry in its tracks. Let’s celebrate the best achievements they made in 2013.


1. The Return of the Salmon: Fish face a lot of environmental issues, but tribes in the northwest have at least done their part to save the salmon. By removing the obstacles to the salmon’s habitat, the Northwest tribes were exultant as more than a million Chinook salmon made their way back up the Columbia River to spawn, which is a record. While much work is still needed, hope was kept alive by the sight of so many fish returning.


2. Black-Footed Ferret Rebounds: Thanks largely to the efforts of the tribes who hosted their reintroduction by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the nearly-extinct black-footed ferret returned. When it was released into the wild, the animal was hosted by the Lower Brule Sioux, Cheyenne River Sioux, and Rosebud Sioux, all in South Dakota, plus the Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations in Montana and a deeded ranch in Arizona managed by the Navajo. The animals were starting to reproduce when they were last seen, so perhaps it won’t be too long until they are thriving once more.


3. White Sturgeon Stages Comeback: The white sturgeon has been around since the dinosaurs roamed, but is now considered to be an endangered species. However, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho is keeping the white sturgeon from going extinct by breeding them in a fishery. Every month in spring, hatchery workers spend days catching the huge fish, then them to the hatchery and then holding them there until the females are ready to spawn. After collecting the eggs, the adult fish are then returned to the Kootenai River.


4. Steelhead Trout Kept Alive: The steelhead trout can spawn twice without impediments, spending the intervening time in the ocean. However, less that 2% of kelts survive the return trip due to numerous dams and slack water reservoirs. Luckily, the Yakama, Warm Springs, Colville and Nez Perce tribes have launched innovative programmes to take steelhead trout and store them during the time they would normally live in the ocean. This way, the tribes are able to re-release the trout when the time to spawn again comes. Only Indian tribes have taken part in this one-of-a-kind programme, setting an example to the rest of us. It may seem a bit outlandish to “recycle” fish; but this is basically what they are doing.


5. Cougars Swarm Turtle Island: In June, the New York Times reported that cougars have ‘re-colonised the Black Hills of South Dakota, the North Dakota Badlands and the Pine Ridge country of Northwestern Nebraska.’ Whether you know them as pumas (Inca), cougars, mountain lions, catamounts or panthers, these feisty kitties managed to achieve what the National Geographic called one of the more remarkable animal comebacks on record.


6. Bison Gets Its Day: On the first Saturday in November, the bison literally got its day when the first official National Bison Day was decreed. However, that wasn’t the only good environmental news the bison received in 2013, as earlier in the year, back in August, the first genetically pure bison in a century were released onto the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana.

Comments are closed.