The Wind River Reservation, the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes, and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition received a $619,500 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and through its America the Beautiful Challenge.
The grant will be used to strengthen the vision of members of both Tribes to attain their long-term goal of restoring a tribal buffalo herd on the Wind River Reservation. It’ll also support habitat restoration on the Big Wind River, support a community engagement program, and develop a strategic plan that promotes food sovereignty, buffalo conservation, river restoration, ecosystem health, and opportunities for climate resilience.
“The mission of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition – working with all people to protect the lands, water, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem – fits in with Indigenous values and beliefs,” said GYC Senior Wind River Conservation Associate Wes Martel. “We believe water is life, buffalo is power, and food is healing. Thanks to the grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, our team is ready to elevate Tribal conservation priorities within this important corner of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”
The Indigenous Peoples of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are the steadfast stewards of this remarkable region. Since time immemorial, a deep and evolving repository of Traditional Ecological Knowledge has been used to live in dynamic reciprocity with nature.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge plays a significant role in sustainable management of natural resources that are considered “life sources” for Indigenous people. By incorporating Traditional Ecological Knowledge into all elements of this work, cultural knowledge is passed down from generation to generation and important relationships are maintained with the land, water, and buffalo that are centered upon reciprocity.
“I have been working to further the goals of the Wind River Water Resources Control Board to upgrade the technical and administrative presence of TWE administrators and staff, said Lokilo St. Clair, Acting Tribal Water Engineer for the Wind River Reservation. “Additionally, we need to begin addressing the impacts of drought and climate change that we have seen in recent years and work with the Elders and communities of both Tribes to make sure the coming generations have a reliable source of clean water. This planning grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation will enable the TWE Office and tribal communities to start developing an understanding of the challenges that lie ahead as we seek to protect lands, water, and wildlife and our connection to Mother Earth.”
With the $619,500, the Wind River Tribes, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and its partners will:
Strengthen the Wind River Water & Buffalo Alliance. The Alliance’s long-term goals are to restore a buffalo herd with more than 1,000 animals on over 100,000 acres on the Wind River Reservation (currently there are only 150 on 3,000 acres) and revitalize the ecological health of and cultural connections to the Big Wind River and its tributaries.
Begin habitat restoration on the Big Wind River at Crowheart Warm Springs. Crowheart Warm Springs provides critical winter habitat for trumpeter swans. Winter habitat is limited in Wyoming and habitat restoration at Crowheart Warm Springs will provide benefits to the entire Rocky Mountain population of trumpeter swans.
Host community field trips for Tribal youth, Elders, and community members. These field trips will help people engage in Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge, connect with nature, learn about species reliant on healthy waterways, and experience hands on participation in the restoration projects.
Support a “Grassroots to Governance” program. This effort provides Tribal leaders and Elders the community support they need to develop a strategic plan to prioritize projects and take action in advancing shared goals.
America the Beautiful Challenge grants support projects that conserve, restore, and connect habitats for wildlife while improving community resilience and access to nature. The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and its partners were among 456 applicants, with just 74 projects selected for funding.