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U.S. Geological Survey Activities Related to American Indians and Alaska Natives
Fiscal Year 2001

Contents | Tribes/Tribal Governments | Organizations/Events | States | Intro | Highlights | Education | Resource/Environment | Technical Assistance | General Coordination/Policy | Future Opportunities | Map (156 Kb PDF) | USGS Contacts

Highlights of Fiscal Year 2001

USGS National Wildlife Health Center (NWHC) distributes Wildlife Health Alerts to Federal and State natural resource and conservation agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Wildlife Health Alerts provide and promote an exchange of information on important threats to wildlife health. They are issued for specific wildlife diseases, not for human health issues. During Fiscal Year 2001, Wildlife Health Alerts were issued on the threat of foot-and-mouth disease to wildlife and on the role of wild birds in the rapid spread of West Nile virus throughout the eastern United States. A complete list of Wildlife Health Alerts and copies of each are available at www.nwhc.usgs.gov. Tribal governments are encouraged to contact the USGS to be added to the automated announcement list. Contact: Paul Slota, 608-270-2420, paul_slota@usgs.gov

Southwest Strategy. The USGS is an active partner in the Southwest Strategy, (SWS). SWS is an intergovernmental process that provides a forum for diverse entities to collaborate and resolve natural resource conservation, management and community development issues affecting Arizona and New Mexico. Through cooperative planning and improved decision-making, SWS strives to maintain, restore, and enhance the cultural, economic, and environmental quality of life for the people of Arizona and New Mexico. SWS brings together Federal, Tribal, State, and local governments, as well as private landowners and other stakeholders, in a problem solving process. A key accomplishment in Fiscal Year 2001 was the coordination and implementation of National Fire Plan activities. Other ongoing collaborative activities include noxious weed management, rangeland monitoring, scientific information exchange, sustainable land use, threatened and endangered species management, Tribal-Federal Government-to-Government Relations, U.S./Mexico relations, and water issues. The USGS sponsors and chairs the Southwest Strategy's Scientific Information Work Group; the work group has developed a database containing information acquired from research and natural resource, social, and economic data that is critical to natural resource management in the Arizona and New Mexico. The database will be available over the Internet in late 2002. The SWS will sponsor a Tribal Gathering in April 2002 focusing on cultural resources, economic development, and natural resources. The Gathering will provide an opportunity for new collaborations to develop meaningful products. Contact. Elaine Padovani, 520-670-5506, epadovan@usgs.gov

Human Health and Contamination in the Penobscot River. The Bureau of Indian Affairs brought together agencies including the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the University of Maine Water Research Institute (WRI) to collect information regarding the occurrence, distribution, and ecological and human health risks associated with dioxins, furans, and PCBs in fish and sediment in the Penobscot River. The study area encompasses the Penobscot River main channel from the Milford Dam impoundment in Old Town to Grindstone, Maine. Concentrations of dioxins and furans in the riverbed sediment have been quantified to a limited degree through a 1995 sampling study by the Penobscot Nation's Department of Natural Resources. In addition, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection maintains several fish sampling stations in the study area as part of their statewide dioxin-monitoring program. During 2000 and 2001, the USGS Maine Water Resources District conducted a field program that included a geophysical survey of sediments in the riverbed to identify areas of fine-grain sediment deposition, and the subsequent collection of fish tissues and fine-grained surficial sediment samples. These samples were analyzed for dioxins, furans, and PCBs at the University of Maine WRI. EPA risk assessors will use the collected data to assess human health and ecological risk. Contact: Robert Lent, 207-622-8201, rmlent@usgs.gov

Tribal Fisheries Restoration and Enhancement. The USGS Great Lakes Science Center's Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science continued to provide assistance Tribes in restoring and enhancing their fisheries. In 2001, Tunison staff stocked 300 catchable rainbow trout and 150 adult Atlantic salmon (reared at the Tunison facility) in waters of the Onondaga Nation. USGS scientists continued assisting the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe by examining the feasibility of restoring Atlantic salmon is St. Lawrence River tributaries. Salmon restoration activities included stocking 13,000 salmon fry in tributaries of the St. Regis, Salmon, and Little Salmon rivers and assessing survival through the fall. Survival rates ranged from 4.5 to 18.6 percent in the three rivers. Over-winter survival of salmon stocked in 1999 was documented in 2000 and 2001. In addition, the Environmental Division of The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe and USGS are cooperating in a pilot project that focuses on the American eel population in the St. Lawrence River. The project involves field collection of American eels, ecological assessments, and laboratory analysis of eel health and life history of this population. Contact: James H. Johnson, 607-753-9391, james_h_johnson@usgs.gov

Restoring the Ecosystem of Miccosukee Tribal Lands in South Florida. The South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force-a Federal, State of Florida, and Tribal task force chaired by the Secretary of the Interior-coordinates activities relevant to Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration with all Federal and State agencies, and Tribes in South Florida. The USGS has assisted by coordinating access to lands of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida for surveying and mapping purposes. The USGS has been involved in the Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Project for several years and has built a cooperative relationship with the Miccosukee to allow privately contracted surveying companies to enter Tribal lands for the purpose of determining local land elevations that will be used in water flow studies. USGS Contact: Greg Desmond, 703-648-4728, GDesmond@usgs.gov; Miccosukee Tribal Contact: Terry Rice, 305-348-3095.

In-situ Determination of Depth and Temperature Selection by Great Lake Fishes. Lake trout have been tagged with archival (data recording) temperature tags in an effort to determine daily and seasonal water temperature preferences. In cooperation with biologists from the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA), the first tagging phase began in 1998 and continued in the fall of 1999. A manuscript is in preparation that describes temperatures occupied by strains of lake trout from fall 1998 through fall 2000. Seneca Lake (New York) strain lake trout occupied significantly lower temperatures in summer 1999 than lake trout of Great Lakes origin. Encouraged by the success of this project, the USGS Great Lakes Science Center assisted the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission in implanting archival tags that record both depth and temperature in lean lake trout in Lake Superior in 2001 and will be cooperating with CORA in implanting the same type of tags in lake whitefish in Lake Huron in 2002-2003. Funding is provided by USGS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The results of the study will benefit management and restoration programs in Tribal agencies, eight States, several Canadian provinces, and other Federal agencies throughout the Great Lakes basin. Contact: Roger Bergstedt, 989-734-4768, roger_bergstedt@usgs.gov

Mapping Bottom Substrates in the Detour Area of Northern Lake Huron. The USGS Great Lakes Science Center's Lake Superior Biological Station is conducting a benthic mapping survey of nearshore habitats in the Detour region of Lake Huron for the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA). Detailed data on depths and bottom substrate composition provided in GIS (Geographic Information System) mapping format will be used by CORA to better understand the relationships between nearshore habitat and spawning and rearing of lake whitefish and other commercially important food fish. This work is part of an ongoing inventory of nearshore aquatic habitats within the 1836-ceded territorial waters of lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. Previous mapping for CORA was conducted by the Center in Whitefish Bay of Lake Superior in 1998. Since five Tribes in the upper Great Lakes region were given fishing rights within the 1836-ceded territorial waters, CORA has sought to protect these areas for sustainable commercial fisheries. CORA is particularly interested in nearshore habitats that are used for spawning and rearing by lake whitefish. Increasing development of shorelines for vacation homes and resorts potentially will have deleterious effects on the quality of nearshore spawning and rearing habitats. Understanding the relationship between habitat and the success of whitefish spawning and recruitment will provide Tribal natural resource managers with information needed to protect and enhance these areas for sustainable fisheries. Contact: Owen Gorman, 715-682-6163, owen_gorman@usgs.gov

Juvenile Lake Trout Assessment in Keweenaw Bay. The USGS Great Lakes Science Center's Lake Superior Biological Station is cooperating with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in rehabilitating lake trout stocks in Lake Superior. The Community is concerned with low abundance of juvenile lake trout in lower Keweenaw Bay, so a management plan was developed to restore that stock. The USGS cooperated with the Community to: 1) evaluate the relative contribution of stocked lake trout to the juvenile population in lower Keweenaw Bay; 2) report biological statistics of stocked lake trout captured in the bay; and 3) compare fish community composition in the area stocked with composition in nearby Lake Superior lake trout fishery management units. Prey fish abundance and biomass were also estimated in the bay using a bottom trawl. The Community's Natural Resources Department is evaluating the effectiveness of their trout stocking program in the light of data collected and by USGS staff. The effectiveness of the management strategies employed is being evaluated based on the technical assistance provided by the USGS to the Community. Contact: Owen Gorman, 715-682-6163, owen_gorman@usgs.gov

Biological Information for Committees of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has established inter-agency committees to coordinate fishery resource management in individual lakes. The USGS Great Lakes Science Center and American Indian groups, such as the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority and the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, are represented on the committees for lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron. To assist Tribal and State fishery management agencies in assessing the success of fish restoration efforts, USGS and Tribal scientists report annually on the status of lake trout rehabilitation and important prey fishes in lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron. In addition, for the Lake Superior Committee, USGS provided data and technical assistance. The USGS submitted a report that described the status and trends of important Lake Superior prey fishes. That report will assist fishery management agencies in describing progress toward attaining fish community objectives and restoration of native species. A Lake Superior walleye rehabilitation plan was coordinated, facilitated, and edited by a USGS scientist, and the Lake Superior Committee approved that plan. The plan describes issues, goals, and strategies that will guide rehabilitation of walleye populations and habitats managed cooperatively by agencies including the Red Cliff Tribe, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Bay Mills Indian Community, Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, and the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission. For the Lake Huron Committee, a USGS scientist presented a synthesis paper on prey fish population status and trends as part of a State of Lake Huron symposium. This information is critically important to Tribal fishery management activities in the 1836 Tribal-ceded waters of northern Lake Huron. In 2001, USGS scientists from the Center and the Geologic Discipline began a project for the Lake Michigan Committee that includes bottom-mapping 1836 Tribal-ceded waters in northern Lake Michigan. This project will provide information on fish spawning and nursery habitat for Tribal and State fishery management agencies. Contact: John E. Gannon, 734-214-7237, john_e_gannon@usgs.gov

Lake Sturgeon Enhancement in Menominee Waters. The USGS participated in a Menominee Reservation Lake Sturgeon Enhancement Committee meeting, in March 2001, concerning ongoing efforts to re-establish lake sturgeon in waters on the Menominee Reservation. The Committee is comprised of personnel from the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and U.S. Geological Survey. The discussions included: movement and habitat of radio-tagged adult lake sturgeon in the Wolf River; fish passage issues related to dams on the Wolf River; movement and habitat issues; success of stocking of juvenile and fingerling lake sturgeon in Reservation impoundments; and future committee direction and tasks. USGS personnel began implementing some of the Committee's priorities by constructing and beginning testing of a prototype spiral fish ladder to assess passage efficiency for lake sturgeon and riverine fishes. The fish ladder project is supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. In another part of the sturgeon restoration effort, USGS staffed transferred two hundred, 3.5-pound lake sturgeon to the Fish and Wildlife Service's Genoa (Wisconsin) National Fish Hatchery for stocking Legend Lake on Menominee lands. The Genoa hatchery raises and stocks lake sturgeon annually for restoration. It also supplies eggs of the same strain to the USGS to be reared for fishery research and, when hatched, the surplus is used for stocking. Contact (coordination): Brent Knights, 608-781-6221, brent_knights@usgs.gov; Contact (fish ladder): Boyd Kynard, 413-863-3807, kynard@usgs.gov; Contact (stocking): Lynn Lee, 608-781-6249, lee@usgs.gov

Contamination Report Published for Pawnee Tribal Trust Land. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) share responsibility for oversight of petroleum production by private companies on Indian trust land. The BLM found evidence of contamination of both soils and water by brines in Payne County on land held in trust for the Pawnee Nation. The USGS identified the current extent and nature of surface and water contamination. The USGS also investigated the possible contamination of the shallowest freshwater aquifer, the Ada aquifer. Based on these investigations, the USGS published a report titled, "Saline contamination of soil and water on Pawnee Tribal trust land, eastern Payne County, Oklahoma," by Donna Runkle, Marvin M. Abbott, and Jeffrey E. Lucius. The data and interpretations provided by the USGS will be used by resource managers to stem further contamination and to determine mitigation strategies. Contact: Marvin M. Abbott, 405-810-4411, mmabbott@usgs.gov

Developing a Curriculum for Ute and Navajo Students. Soil crusts are important features of arid and semiarid ecosystems throughout the Southwest. In addition to stabilizing surfaces and increasing water absorption, living organisms in soil crusts contribute nitrogen and organic matter to ecosystems, functions that are especially important in desert ecosystems. As is the case with the general public, many Native Americans are not consciously aware of the relationship of soil crust to the an ecosystem. In addition, soil crusts on lands of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Navajo Nation have suffered significant damage from grazing animals. USGS scientists are developing a curriculum that integrates biological and earth sciences for Ute and Navajo grade school students. The curriculum will focus on teaching students about biological soil crusts and the crucial roles they play in the ecosystems of the Four Corners region. Government scientists hope to pass along the knowledge that is being gained through USGS research on soil crusts to the next generation of land stewards. The curriculum being prepared for Indian students will engage them in the workings of basic scientific concepts. Through this study of biology and earth science as it relates to their local environment, students will be encouraged to further their education in these disciplines and to consider careers in resource management. This project aims to inspire students to bring their expertise to the community as resource managers, ranchers, and better-informed community members. In 2001, scientists at the Canyonlands Field Station taught elementary school students from part of the Navajo Nation about the importance of biological soil crusts, provided lesson plans and follow-up assignments to teachers, and are currently developing a school curriculum on biological soil crusts for 4th grade science classes. Contact: Jayne Belnap, 435-719-2333, jayne_belnap@usgs.gov; Tim Graham, 435-719-2339; tim_graham@usgs.gov

Yupiit Students Assist in Biological Research. USGS scientists in Alaska are continuing to enhance communication between government researchers and Alaska Natives. To demonstrate the kind of research being conducted, USGS recruited 14 Yupiit students to assist in a waterfowl study on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska. The students captured geese and swans and fitted them with leg bands and neck collars. Movements of these waterfowl are being monitored as part of a large study to determine annual survival rates, migration pathways, and important staging and winter habitats. The year 2001 marks the 16th consecutive year of involvement by Alaska Native students from the Native village of Chevak in this important project; more than 160 Yupiit youth have participated in this program since 1986. This effort supports a regional need for information on the population biology of a species of interest to indigenous people, wildlife enthusiasts, and sport hunters. Contact: Craig Ely, USGS Alaska Biological Science Center, 907-786-3512, craig_ely@usgs.gov

Albert White Hat, Sr. explains the significance of the ceremony and the relationship between Sinte Gleska University and the U.S. Geological Survey during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.  The ceremony was hosted by and held at the 
university. Albert White Hat, Sr. explains the significance of the ceremony and the relationship between Sinte Gleska University and the U.S. Geological Survey during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. The ceremony was hosted by and held at the university.
 
USGS Director Chip Groat, speaking before officials of Sinte Gleska University and USGS at a ceremony to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations. USGS Director Chip Groat, speaking before officials of Sinte Gleska University and USGS at a ceremony to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organizations.

The contacts provided in the report were accurate at the time of publication. Please refer to the USGS Employee Directory or the Office of Tribal Relations contact page if you require information about a specific activity.

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