Issue of the Week: Conservation on Tribal Lands


Native American tribes are once again donating big game hunting tags to the 44th Annual 2016 SCI Convention. SCI Foundation and our Native American partners are excited for this year’s Rocky Mountain Elk tag from the record breaking White Mountain Apache Reservation in Arizona, Mule Deer and Desert Bighorn Sheep tags from the Navajo Nation, and a Rocky Mountain Elk tag from the world-famous Acoma Pueblo in west-central New Mexico. These auction tags have consistently raised awareness on the wildlife supported on tribal lands, but the successful conservation programs implemented by Native American tribes is a story that is not often told.

Proceeds generated by the Conservation Auction Tags directly benefit tribal natural resource agencies. The White Mountain Apache Game and Fish Department, for example, manages a wealth of wildlife on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation in south central Arizona. The 1.6 million acres of high elevation forest and desert scrub, painted with lakes and streams, provides some of the best recreation opportunities in the Southwest. The White Mountain Apache Tribe has restored several federally listed species to the local ecosystem, including Mexican wolves, Mexican spotted owls and loach minnows.

White Mountain Apache Tribe

The Apache Trout is strictly native to the Fort Apache Reservation. Thanks to the tribe’s trout recovery efforts, the fish was down-listed by the USFWS from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act in 2002. A rearing program in the reservation’s fish hatchery was established to transplant trout to other streams and lakes. To date, 21 streams have been restored, non-native trout species have been removed from 14 streams, and 8 new Apache Trout populations have been successfully established. This effort has led to a productive sport fishery that brings in more revenue for conservation. The Apache Trout, with help from the White Mountain Apache Tribe, may be the first ever fish species to be completely delisted.

Apache Trout
Apache Trout. Cooperative Conservation America

For the Apache, conservation is about finding a balance between economic development and sustaining natural resource management. In addition to their conservation program, the tribe maintains forestry and ranching activity, world-class elk hunting, and outdoor recreation. Recently, a permanent fund to restore habitat and for scholarships to tribal members pursuing natural resource studies was established in partnership with state and federal agencies.

Wildlife management has also been successful on other tribal lands. The Navajo Nation is on the way to achieving its goal of restoring their desert bighorn sheep population to historic levels. Thanks to effective management and sustainable use hunting, sheep numbers have grown to over 400 animals in the last ten years. The Acoma Pueblo management program continually collects harvest information from its elk hunts and conducts aerial herd composition surveys to determine a sustainable annual harvest level. Eighteen elk have been radio-collared to track movement, seasonal habitat selection and critical habitat in another research project. To improve elk habitat, the Acoma tribe develops water resources and works to remove the invasive cholla cactus and replant native grasses.

SCI Foundation is proud to partner with these Native American tribes and support their stewardship of wildlife. For more information on the Conservation Auction Tags, go to our Facebook page and look for promotions every Friday of this month. This year’s Conservation Tag Auction will be taking place on Friday, February 5th, in Bayside Hall F at 11:00 am at the 44th Annual SCI Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.


Twice a week, SCI Foundation informs readers about conservation initiatives happening worldwide and updates them on SCI Foundation’s news, projects and events. Tuesdays are dedicated to an Issue of the Week and Thursday’s Weekly Updates will provide an inside look into research and our other science-based conservation efforts. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more SCI Foundation news.

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