Chippewa Cree Making Good Progress on Ecological Stewardship Efforts

Collection of fallen wood that will be repurposed.

Collection of fallen wood that will be re-purposed.

In spring 2018, the Chippewa Cree Natural Resources Department was awarded a Mapping Ecological Stewardship Opportunities (MESO) grant from First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) through a project supported by generous funding from the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. The Chippewa Cree grant was aimed at revitalizing the tribe’s Forest Management and Development Plans and establishing a Carbon Credit Plan.

Throughout the following summer, the department successfully updated the Forest Management and Development Plan, Fire Management Plan, and began the initial steps for potential future carbon-sequestration projects.

“At First Nations, our focus is to build the economic sustainability of tribal communities,” said Jackie Francke, Vice President of Programs and Administration at First Nations. “Carbon sequestration is a way for tribes to reinforce their sovereign rights over their lands.”

Cut wood for seniors.

Cut wood for elders.

After successfully completing its initial grant proposal, the Chippewa Cree Tribe Natural Resources Department was invited for a second MESO grant. This second grant was developed to support the Chippewa Cree Tribe Forestry Department in purchasing equipment and supplies for fuel-reduction activities, conducting mapping and inventory of forest resources that contribute to revenue-generating projects, developing an outline for a sustainable harvest plan, and to complete an inventory and resource plan.

With the grant funding awarded, the Forestry Department was able to purchase a new vehicle to carry tribal workers and equipment, with a flatbed to haul large amounts of fallen wood. The Chippewa Cree Tribe Forestry Department has been able to clear much of the fallen wood, assisting in the management of forest floors, and providing wood to homes across the reservation in time for the harsh Montana winter season. This program helps elders who cannot afford high heating costs by supplementing their heating sources with the fallen wood.

In addition, the grant supported the purchase of two tablets and vegetation geosystem software for the Forestry and Range Departments of the Chippewa Cree Tribe. Kathy Wesley, Forestry Director at the Chippewa Cree Rocky Boy Tribe, said, “These tablets and software are a wonderful addition, as this equipment is not cheap, and makes the jobs much easier working in the field.” The vegetation geosystem software and versatility of the tablets has provided the Chippewa Cree Tribe with up-to-date information on the mapping and inventory of the current forest resources, contributing to the tribal inventory and resource plans.

One of the burn piles of wood.

One of the burn piles of wood.

This grant supports growth within the Natural Resources Department through much-needed equipment purchases. On a surface view, the vehicle purchase was able to clear the forest floors for proper management, but the benefits expand beyond the initial grant period. The Forestry Department will be able to supply homes with wood for home heating throughout the winter months. Similarly, the new vegetation geosystem software and tablets will provide accurate, up-to-date data, making the tribe more viable for future Carbon Credit Plans.

“First Nations is honored to facilitate philanthropic giving to tribal communities,” said Francke, “With limited resources, Native nations are able to make incredible, lasting change within their communities. It is amazing to be a part of this positive, community-driven growth.”

By Stephanie Cote, First Nations Program Coordinator

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