by Dave Vogel
NACD established the Tribal Outreach and Partnership (TOP) Resource Policy Group (RPG) at the 2017 Annual Meeting in Denver to assist conservation districts across the country in reaching out to and partnering with tribes on conservation projects. Among the TOP RPG’s main objectives is to promote successful outreach and partnership efforts on a national stage.
The RPG’s first success story comes from Washington state, where the North Yakima Conservation District (NYCD) and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Yakama Nation) collaborated to implement a stream restoration project on Ahtanum Creek, an important tributary to the Yakima River in central Washington.
Years before, the NYCD and Yakama Nation had worked separately with the same partner – La Salle High School – to improve fish habitat, correct fish passage barriers, and construct fish screens. Both parties – looking to expand their restoration activities – came together through this common partner to undertake the Ahtanum Creek project.
The Ahtanum Creek project included restoring in-stream habitat, reconnecting floodplains, stabilizing streambanks, establishing healthy riparian habitats, and developing off-stream livestock watering and livestock management fencing. Neither partner had the capacity to perform restoration at such a scale individually, but together, they were able to access funding for the in-stream work and coordinate permits for the project (through the Yakama Nation), as well as provide technical assistance to landowners (through NYCD).
The partners worked together in defining the objectives and opportunities for the project, and prepared a comprehensive funding and technical assistance package. Leveraged resources for the project totaled $750,000 and included support from the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program and state best management practices (BMPs) cost-share.
The key “lesson learned”? Both partners brought different strengths to this collaborative effort that enhanced their ability to get conservation on the ground. While the tribe and conservation district have different authorities, jurisdictions, priorities, and technical capacity, once these differences are recognized, understood, and respected, their strengths were brought together for the benefit of the community’s natural resources.
If you have questions about this success story, contact Michael Tobin, the manager of NYCD, at Mike-tobin[at]conservewa.net. If you have a success story of your own that you would like to share, please get in touch with NACD Western Issues Specialist Jeff Burwell at jeff-burwell[at]nacdnet.org, and consider using this guidance document – Conservation District and Tribal Partnership Success Stories – Recommended Template – for describing success narratives.