Tribe Seeks Fisheries Enforcement Fundingby Staff
The Idaho Statesman, January 19, 2004
LEWISTON -- The Nez Perce Tribe´s Fisheries Enforcement Department may run out of money if Congress or the Bonneville Power Administration doesn´t step in and financially help the program.
Financial problems and changes in funding priorities at the BPA prompted the agency to drop support for the program this year. The agency also dropped support for the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission´s enforcement program.
Now, tribal officials are attempting to find money for tribal conservation officers through Congress.
However, it could be up to two years before the money shows up, said David Johnson, director of the tribe´s fisheries program at Lapwai.
The tribe requested $511,000 to fund the program, which employs 10 to 11 full-time officers.
Johnson said he fears the officers, who are federally trained, will be laid off when money runs out in February, and many will seek other jobs. When funding is secured in the future, he said the tribe will have to start the program from scratch.
U.S. Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo wrote a letter to the Council of Environmental Quality at the White House last week asking the president to request funds for the program in the 2005 budget. The senators also urged the Bush administration to find interim funding for 2004 to prevent the “loss of the multiyear training investment for each laid-off officer.”
Johnson said the tribe would ask the Northwest Power and Conservation Council Tuesday to provide interim funding.
The BPA markets power generated by federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers, and is obligated by law to mitigate for the negative effects that dams have on fish and wildlife.
Each year the agency pays for habitat restoration, fish hatcheries and other programs.
The agency´s 2004 budget includes $139 million for regional protects.
But the agency is in the midst of a budget crisis of its own and has had to reduce fish and wildlife expenditures.
Judi Danielson, chairwoman for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, said the tribe will have to find funding for its conservation officers on its own.
She met with tribal officials Thursday at Lapwai and said the council is unable to do anything to help because there´s no allotted money in the budget. She said the council believes tribal conservation officers should be funded through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
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