Tubutulik River with Darby Mountains in the background within the Kobuk-Seward Planning Area (Photo credit: Hal)
The Norton Bay Watershed Council (NBWC) aims to cooperatively co-steward the Norton Bay watershed with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). However, Alaska Native tribes face challenges in participating in decision-making processes related to climate resiliency and resource management. To address these challenges, the NBWC plans to propose cooperative co-stewardship agreements with BLM that prioritize Native tradition and culture, incorporate Indigenous knowledge, and protect salmon spawning and rearing habitat on a landscape-level watershed scale.
Cooperatively co-steward the Norton Bay watershed with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Tribes must play a larger role in climate resiliency and resource management decision-making in order to create systematic change and increase tribal self-determination regarding the impacts of climate change and land development decisions on tribal subsistence resources. One way to address the lack of decision-making power, and the inclusion of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK), into water and subsistence resource management is to develop co-management agreements between Tribes and federal or state agencies.
Co-management is intended to be a shared decision-making process and should be based on principles of “mutual concurrence.” For Alaska Native Tribes to be legitimate partners in co-management, such agreements must emphasize Native tradition and culture including providing for others, caring for the whole ecosystem and respect for nature, the community, and the individual.
In particular, salmon, the staple of the traditional and customary way of life for communities in the North Bering Sea, are in crisis. Enforcement of fish and game harvesting by federal and state officials is typically contrary to tribal sovereignty and stewardship. Indigenous peoples living closest to the land would benefit from increased trust, information-sharing, communication, and the spirit of collaboration in a co-management setting. In addition, in order to inform an understand of necessary resource and management practices, Indigenous knowledge must be accepted and applied.
The Norton Bay Watershed Council will work with the federally recognized tribal governments of the Native Villages of Elim, Koyuk, Shaktoolik, Golovin, Stebbins, Shismaref, St. Michael and others to propose cooperative co-stewardship agreements with BLM to co-manage the 12,000-acre Norton Bay Watershed. These agreements would enable the tribes and BLM to work together to protect salmon spawning and rearing habitat on a landscape-level watershed scale in areas that correspond to nominated Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) and high-value watershed adjacent mainstem rivers. These agreements would bring a new approach to ecosystem management through Tribal co-management, Indigenous-led research, and sustainable economic development, balancing cultural, environmental, and economic priorities.
The Watershed Council began conversations with BLM in early 2022, and will soon initiaite the process to create agreements as of spring 2023.
P.O. Box 15332, Fritz Creek, AK 99603