As our oldest national park, Yellowstone turns 150 this spring, work continues on other federal lands and large swaths of land on Native American reservations. Work in the Great Plains beyond the federal dollars spent by the Bureau of Indian Affairs is assisted by various consultants and companies assisting nearly 26 tribes in our region from various government agencies. There are 476 recognized tribes nationwide.
New Century Environmental (NCE) biologists from Columbus were in Deadwood, South Dakota last week at the Native American Fish & Wildlife Society to share information about wildlife research and conservation at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. in North and South Dakota. A scenic spot, the area is blessed with bighorn sheep, mule deer and antelope seen throughout the week during the conference.
NCE had the good fortune earlier in the week to work with the Tribe’s Standing Rock President, Mrs. Janet Alkire, on the unique and abundant natural resources located on the reservation and to help her write her keynote address for the conference. I was fortunate to present information about the flora (plants) of Cannonball and the Missouri River below the DAPL pipeline that had not previously been documented on the preserve. Sharing key points, approximately ¾ of North America’s listed species at risk (species most in need of conservation) are plants.
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Seth Gutzmer, RCE biologist, specialist in game birds and upland habitat, presented 10 years of game bird trends in the reserve and promoted management and habitat recommendations based on habitat loss. habitat, climate change, overgrazing and the impacts of invasive species. Gutzmer presented “real world” habitat improvements that transform bird populations. This fall, Gutzmer accepted an offer of graduate assistantship at the University of Central Missouri to assess the impacts on small mammals and other animals of solar and wind renewable energy installations across the country. He will also teach undergraduate biology, ecology and wildlife management labs.
Jordan Kort, biologist and expert in predator calling, presents a presentation of recorded mammal species featuring black-footed ferrets and very rare bats found on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. NCE research methodologist Kurt Tooley (one of the top acoustic bat monitoring experts in the United States) and biologist Jordan Kort developed innovative sampling techniques related to the call of the black-footed ferret and to thermal imaging which will be tested in a pilot project during a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) study being conducted over the next year. This is an example of innovative techniques developed for population inventory that the private sector can bring value to the table in a challenging effort for better management.
The tribes are waiting to see if the Americas Wildlife Recovery Act could pass later this year. Funding for natural resource work and management is supported at a minimum by grants and some donations. NCE biologists have assisted tribes locally and regionally over the past 25 years with nearly $4 million successfully awarded to Great Plains tribes.
This spring, NCE just launched a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-funded Tribal Wildlife Grant project for the Santee Sioux Nation in Knox County that will inventory common and rare amphibians and reptiles in the preserve’s wetlands and compile threats. for future populations. This was the only tribal wildlife grant funded in the Great Plains region in 2022. We are also developing a Santee Sioux Wetland Conservation Plan with a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency in a separate effort.
The company is also working on an invasive species inventory and tribal youth development projects for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska in southeastern Nebraska in Richardson County, with this work funded by the BIA. This is also a two-year study.
Ultimately, our goal is to bring good science to inform the challenge of successful management of reservation resources for tribes, which in many cases cannot be achieved without this additional funding. As a small company, we continue to find ways to secure funding and develop new technologies for game and fisheries and environmental departments that otherwise might not be involved in the practical management.
Our ultimate goal is to work to preserve the dwindling natural resources on reservation lands, not just for tribal members, but for all Americans in a world that is expected to number 9 billion in 2042.
Michael P. Gutzmer, PhD is director and owner of New Century Environmental LLC and provides environmental consulting services on the Great Plains. NCE works with water, wetlands, habitat development for threatened and endangered species and pollution issues. Please email me at [email protected]