Tribal Government & News

Natural Resources receives grant to end 'shocking' fish practice

02.23.2022 Dean Rhodes Tribal Council, Natural resources


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

To determine fish populations in a stretch of water, the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department employees usually have to shock the fish.


With electricity.

Although more than 90 percent survivable, the practice is still tough on fish, said Tribal Fish & Wildlife Program Manager Kelly Dirksen during the Tuesday, Feb. 22, Legislative Action Committee meeting.

“It’s nothing I think the fish enjoy,” Dirksen said. “It’s not fatal, but it is hard on fish to do it. And it doesn’t capture everything.”

The shocking practice may soon end.

During its Wednesday, Feb. 23, meeting, Tribal Council approved accepting a one-year, $100,362 Endangered Species Program grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that will train Tribal employees in how to measure fish populations using environmental DNA.

“It is the future of biological sampling,” Dirksen said. “eDNA is a way of getting a whole profile of the species within a stream by just taking water samples.”

The grant will purchase a machine to analyze for environmental DNA and contract with Oregon State University for staff training in field collection and lab protocols that would determine species presence from water samples.

“Annually, the Fish & Wildlife staff evaluate streams prior to timber sales to determine appropriate stream buffer widths,” the executive summary states. “This is currently done by walking the stream reach and electro-shocking to determine fish presence and therefore necessary buffer widths. … Surveying for fish using eDNA collected from water samples provides an alternative that is non-invasive and may reduce the overall cost of stream surveying.”

“I never realized that you tased fish to get their count,” Tribal Council member Jon A. George said.

“This technique, if we learn it through this grant, can be applied to all sorts of areas,” Dirksen said. “It can be used for terrestrial species, too. It gives our staff the capacity to expand in an area that I think will be really beneficial.”

In other action, Tribal Council:

  • Approved accepting a maximum $200,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Education to continue developing curriculum related to the Native American experience in Oregon and making the curriculum available to school districts statewide;
  • Approved accepting a $100,000 Oregon Department of Transportation grant that will be used to offset the cost of bridge materials at the 338-acre Chahalpam conservation property in Marion County. Dirksen said the property routinely floods and, combined with an already acquired $276,125 grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the ODOT grant will help fund the building of a new bridge and installation of culverts;
  • Approved the enrollment of two infants into the Tribe because they meet the requirements outlined in the Tribal Constitution and Enrollment Ordinance;
  • And approved adding 18 more Tribal members to the historically important Restoration Roll, bringing this year’s total to 39. Tribal Council added 204 people to the roll in 2019, 127 in 2020 and 189 in 2021. The names will now move forward to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for approval.

Also included in the Feb. 23 Tribal Council packet was an approved authorization to proceed giving Cultural Resources Department Manager David Harrelson the ability to create and operate an annual Indigenous Placekeeping Artist Fellowship, which will be funded up to a maximum of $15,000 by the Tribe, Oregon Cultural Trust and the Oregon Community Foundation.

Tribal Council also approved the 11 a.m. Sunday, March 6, General Council meeting agenda, which will feature a presentation by the Cultural Resources Department and be held via Zoom.

To watch the entire meeting, visit the Tribal government’s website at and click on the Government tab and then Videos.