Tribal Government & News
General Council briefed on Natural Resources
By Danielle Harrison
Smoke Signals staff writer
Natural Resources Department Manager Colby Drake updated Tribal members on the department’s various programs and accomplishments during a Sunday, Feb. 6, General Council meeting held via the Zoom video conferencing application.
During the approximately 35-minute presentation, Drake discussed the different programs within the department, various projects and future goals.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to represent the Natural Resources Department,” Drake said. “We have six different programs within the department which includes an administrative team that keeps our department together. It’s been a great opportunity to work with them.”
Drake served as interim manager after former manager Mike Wilson retired in January 2021 and was officially named to the post eight months later.
Natural Resources programs include Parks and Recreation, Timber Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Fire Management and Protection, and Environmental Protection.
Some of the highlights included:
- Fish and Wildlife: Coordinating annual ceremonial fishing and installation of a removable platform at Willamette Falls, distributing 7,400 pounds of salmon to Tribal members, issuing hunting and fishing licenses, and monitoring the salmon counts via a fish weir at Agency Creek.
- Environmental Protection: Since 2015, the department has re-acquired some 2,000 acres of land. Three of these conservation properties – Takilth, Noble Oaks and Ahsney – are located near Grand Ronde, Chankawan and Chahalpam are near the Santiam Highway and Rattlesnake Butte is near Junction City. Natural Resources is currently working on a program for Tribal members to hunt, fish, gather and hike at these locations. To date, there have been 92,401 plants planted, 13 structures and 268 tons of garbage removed, and eight acres reforested. Additionally, more than $2 million in grant funding from state agencies and nonprofits has been obtained for improvements. The Tribal Native Plant Materials program grows 35 to 45 species of plants that are native to the Willamette Valley including various first food species which are used primarily for the restoration projects.
- Fire Management: The nationally available Tribal Wildland Fire program includes a 20-person crew, six engines, a tactical engine and one 1,500-gallon water tender. The program also employs 30 additional people as seasonal firefighters. There has been implementation of prescribed burns on and off the Reservation. The program has generated approximately $300,000 in engine revenue and more than $1 million in reimbursable receipts.
- Timber Resources: The Yoda logging unit generated more than $3 million in revenue using Tribal member-owned contract logging, young Douglas fir trees were salvaged from the February 2021 ice storm and the timber was thinned to optimize growth. The program also manages the 128 miles of roads and trails on the Reservation.
- Parks and Recreation: There are 13 tent sites, two RV sites, three vault toilets and one portable toilet at Big Buck campground in Grand Ronde. The summer youth crew program recently received a $40,000 grant from the state to help with funding and will be looking to hire 16 to 18 youths with two to three leaders, as there will be substantial work in 2022 due to no crew in 2020 and a short season in 2021. Additionally, a disc golf course is being designed at Fort Hill State Park with the first 10 baskets installed. The department is looking to install a shorter course on the main Tribal campus by summer as well as a nature play area on a two-acre plot of trees near the Elders Activity Center.
“I’m very excited with all of our new projects and everything that is happening,” Drake said.
After the presentation, he took two questions from the audience.
“I appreciate Natural Resources so much,” Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy said. “It’s a blessing to hear about the wonderful projects and land the Tribe has acquired through purchase or BPA mitigation. Our goal is to re-acquire all the land that was lost.”
In other action, it was announced that the Portland community meeting would not be held after General Council due to funeral services for a Tribal Elder, which were scheduled for the same day. An input survey for Portland-area Tribal members will still be conducted and shared at the March General Council meeting. Those interested in completing the e-mail survey are asked to contact Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez at email@example.com.
Additionally, the next General Council meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, March 6, with a report from the Cultural Resources Department. The location is yet to be determined.
Door prize winners were David Harrelson, Gail Wilkinson, Kristi Petite, Deborah Bernardo Anderson and David Leno, $50 each; and Brenda Tuomi, Richard A. McKnight and Angela Schlappie, $100 each.
The meeting can be viewed in its entirety by visiting the Tribal government’s website at www.grandronde.org and clicking on the Government tab and then Videos.