Eklutna Tribal Conservation District Initiated
Native Village of Eklutna (NVE) recently established the Eklutna Tribal Conservation District (ETCD), by Resolution and an Agreement with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), signed August 17, 2016 by the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack and NVE President Lee Stephan. The Agreement encourages the Tribe to aid in “…the administration, coordination, financing, and delivery of all USDA programs related to community development and natural resources management and conservation programs.”
The USDA Natural Resources and Environment Program, including the Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service, and potentially the Rural Housing Service, are most relevant to the Eklutna Tribal Conservation District. (We are working to achieve a rural determination for Eklutna Village.) The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides financial and technical assistance to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related natural resources. The NRCS Wetlands Reserve Easements Program helps to restore, protect and enhance wetlands. NRCS and other USDA programs can also support development of an Eklutna organic garden, which should become a self-sustaining business.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers assistance for agricultural, fish and wildlife management on private and corporation owned lands. Some federal environmental and resource management agencies, including NRCS offer certain programs and services to Native Tribes that can be administered through a TCD. Some can support moose and salmon habitat conservation and enhancement which can be considered Alaska Native agricultural resources. Therefore, Alaska Tribes and village corporations can effectively work together to conserve and enhance these resources and benefit their people who rely on them through a TCD
The Tyonek TCD was the first of now 14 TCDs in Alaska. They provide a successful model, and educational assistance for other developing Alaska TCDs. The Alaska Tribal Conservation Alliance also offers a wealth of assistance for Alaska TCDs. Some of their programs include: The Tyonek community organic garden, on 1.5 acres of village corporation land, produced 1,400 pounds of produce in 2014 for their Elder’s Lunch Program and market sales. A culvert replacement at Old Tyonek Creek opened up 1 miles of upstream salmon habitat. Tyonek TCD is also monitoring moose populations to advise more productive management. The Tyonek TCD Board includes two each appointed by the Tyonek Native Corporation and Tyonek Tribal Council, and one by CIRI. The Tyonek TCD office is housed in the Tyonek Native Corporation offices.
Tribal conservation districts set priorities for conservation and sustainable use of natural resources for subsistence, economic opportunity, resource development, and cultural preservation. A tribal conservation district establishes its conservation priorities through a comprehensive planning process. Funding should become available to develop the ETCD with a Board and bylaws, hire staff, and engage in a planning process and develop projects to implement the plan.