Landscape Level Adaptation and Conservation Project Planning
At the time The People were coming to take the place of animals on earth, a boy was lost in the mountains. He wandered around trying to find his way back to his father and mother when he met Hah-hahts, the grizzly bear. Now Itsi-yai-yai, the Coyote, had told the Bear that The People were coming to take possession of his territory. Bear was furious because he did not want to give up the land he loved. When he saw the boy, the grizzly’s eyes filled with hatred. He reared up on his hind legs. His teeth chomped together so that flecks of foam dribbled from his snarling lips as he lunged forward with his claws extended to shred the boy to pieces.
“So! A child of the Nee-Me-Poo has come to rob me of the land I love! With one blow of my paw I will kill him, and him I will devour.” Bear growled until the mountains shook and echoed his anger. The boy just stood there before him.
He answered Bear with these calm words, “I can only die. Death is only part of life. I’m not afraid.”
Bear stopped short in solemn wonder. “What is that?” he rasped. “You are a different creature from the Animals. They would cower at my words, but you have shown the bravery of Bear, the wisdom of Coyote, and the pride of Eagles. You are of a superior race, deserving these lands. My time has come. I must show you the provisions and secrets of your new home, and I will do so gladly.”
In admiration now, the Bear flipped the boy onto his furry back and started into the higher mountains. Here he showed him pools and streams full of fish. He showed the boy the home of the Beavers, the Little People, who cut down trees and dammed the streams so fish could be caught more easily. He showed him the home of the Moose, the Elk, and the Deer. Bear climbed the backbone of the highest mountains to show the boy the way to the other side where buffalo lived on the Plains toward the rising sun. Sometimes Bear would stand up on his hind legs to scratch a mark on the trunk of a tree so that all who came afterwards would know that he had been that way.
Often the Bear and the boy could hear the voice of Itsi-yai-yai, the Coyote, urging them on, for Coyote liked to use his loud voice, while Bear had not been given a loud-talk tongue. After the boy had seen the home of the buffalo, Bear brought him back along the trail through the mountains to the camas meadows of Oyiap (Weippe). He showed him the huckleberry, the chokecherry, and the serviceberry. The boy thought that all he had seen was good. After he had done all this, Bear took the boy to the brink of Kamiah Valley.
“Here your people are living,” he said. “Go tell them what you have learned about this great land, the food that has been provided for them, and the trail that will take them across the mountains.” Bear disappeared then, and the boy returned to his people.
Cultural survival for Native Americans is inseparable from healthy ecosystems, abundant fish and wildlife, water quality, and biodiversity. The Nez Perce Tribe manages from ridgetop to ridgetop, from the mountains to the sea. The Tribe’s Indian Claims Commission (ICC) contains some of the largest tracts of public land and protected land in the West, is largely rural and undeveloped, contains farms and ranches that provide habitat, and is home to many wildlife species that need room to roam, and fish that need cold water.
However, increasingly severe cycles of drought, heat waves, extreme precipitation, fires, and erosion have led to massive fish kills, closed fishing seasons, tick outbreaks, and emerging diseases in wild game, and changes in wild gathered foods and medicines. These changes represent an existential threat to the spiritual life and cultural survival of the Nimiipuu, the Nez Perce people.
By the end of this century, habitats and species are expected to shift upslope and north, shrink, or disappear altogether. Precipitation is projected to change from snow to rain, snow-melt and run-off will change in volume and timing. Heat waves are expected to be longer and more extreme, and wildfires are projected to increase in severity and size. As a result, water (timing and abundance) is one of the Tribe’s greatest concerns. Culturally important wild plants (berries, roots, foods, and medicines) are already changing in quality, timing, abundance, and size, and these changes are likely to accelerate.
Current paradigms, management structures, and capacity are simply inadequate to address these issues at the scale and speed required. The only way to build capacity to address these issues rapidly is to collaborate with other stakeholders in a new way. Uniquely, this project is being led by a Tribe. The heart of this effort is to integrate the resilience of humans and wildlife, and cultural survival into landscape level conservation planning.
The initial partners in this effort are the Nez Perce Tribe, Yellowstone to Yukon, Greater Hell’s Canyon Council, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, and David Mildrexler with Eastern Oregon Legacy Lands loosely called the Blues to Bitterroots Coalition until further input is obtained. The initial funding to kick off this initiative is from the BIA Tribal Resilience Program. We plan to convene regional land managers, tribes, stakeholders, and citizens in a coalition to work on landscape level adaptation planning efforts that focus on connectivity for wildlife, restoring habitats that support traditionally harvested plant foods, increasing food production for local communities, and growing an ethical, inclusive, and adaptive restoration economy / a healing economy.
Our first proposed projects under this umbrella are the Seasonal Round Trail Project and the Camas to Condors Project. Please click on the links below to learn more.
Our first meeting will be virtual due to Covid – 19 and will be held on July 23, 2020. Please join us in creating abundance for all species in our shared home.
Seasonal Round Trail Project
Since time immemorial, people have thrived alongside wildlife and native plants in the Greater Hells Canyon Region. The Nez Perce, or Nimiipuu, people had winter homes at low elevations and summer homes at higher elevations, connected by trails to important gathering, hunting, and fishing sites. Their yearly movement along this circuit, in intimate relationship with natural cycles of abundance, is the Seasonal Round.
The Blues to Bitterroots Coalition is working on convening partners to work on a climate adaptation framework centered on this ancient pattern of seasonal movement—a pattern still followed by traditional harvesters, many ranchers, and wildlife in our shared home.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact Stefanie Krantz or Thomas Tallbull.
Camas to Condors Project
The objective of this project is to develop a plan and vision for the Tribe and regional collaborators to work on landscape level planning efforts that focus on connectivity for wildlife, and on habitats that support traditionally harvested plant foods. This planning effort is a first step towards garnering support and obtaining adequate funding for restoration efforts. Our vision includes whole-landscape function (including hydrology and ecological connectivity), however initial efforts will be focused on critical linkages. These include the Nez Perce Precious Lands and its watershed, and three keystone symbolic species: camas (Camassia quamash), Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), and California condor (Gymnogyps californianus).
Why Camas, Coho, and Condors?
These focal species honor native sovereignty and lifeways. Camas represents primary producers, gathered plants and hydrology (seasonal wetlands); condors represent a member of our community, a recycler, who has been lost from these lands, is critically endangered, and whose recovery challenges us to remove poisons from the land; and Coho, the long-distance traveler, represents healthy water, is threatened by the increasing water temperatures and extreme events, and is a member of our community who has very recently been reunited with the waters of eastern Oregon. These species are cultural keystone species that serve as umbrella representatives of the ecosystems that the Nez Perce people have depended upon since time immemorial. They also represent the ecosystem processes that allowed wild foods to be plentiful and timely to sustain humans on this landscape. Restoration work on behalf of these species will improve the overall resilience of the landscape while building on decades of NPT-led efforts to bring essential pieces and processes of the landscape–from primary producers to obligate recyclers–back together.
Map created by Dr. David Mildrexler of Eastern Oregon Legacy Lands. Copyright David Mildrexler
This California Condor Live Cam isn’t related to our project directly, but we support all condors! Check them out!