Date: Friday, March 31, 2023
Today in Alaska, as part of the Department’s Investing in America tour, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau announced that the Department will invest more than $16 million over the next four years from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to enhance the resilience of ecosystems and salmon in Alaska’s Yukon, Kuskokwim and Norton Sound region through co-stewardship with Alaska Native Tribes. These initial investments serve as a catalyst for additional public and private sector investments in the region and in the foundational planning, science, and restoration projects needed to respond to the salmon crisis and to heal the broader ecosystem through co-stewardship.
The funding advances the Department’s new Gravel to Gravel initiative, a mountains to the sea restoration approach, unveiled as part of a restoration and resilience framework last month that will guide $2 billion in investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to restore lands and waters and advance climate resilience.
“This historic funding to restore salmon and protect its habitats in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Rivers and Norton Sound Watershed will build a foundation to conserve and restore the region’s cultural heritage through durable co-stewardship agreements and immediate responses to the worsening climate crisis,” said Deputy Secretary Beaudreau. “The Interior Department is committed to investing in Alaska Native communities so that their traditional lifeways and ancestral homelands are protected for future generations to inherit and steward.”
Gravel to Gravel is the Department’s response to a resounding call for federal action from Alaska Native Tribes and subsistence users. Through a series of nation-to-nation consultations, congressional field hearings, and other forums, Department leaders have heard directly from communities about dramatic ecosystem changes in the region, their impacts on ways of life, and the need for immediate and lasting “gravel to gravel” action by the federal government. One of the most compelling examples of that change and the greatest call to action came around Pacific salmon populations, which are experiencing stark declines due to a variety of factors, including climate change and reduced habitat quality and connectivity, leading to subsistence salmon fishing closures and empty smokehouses.
$5 million from today’s announcement will fund grants to bring Tribal partner voices, Indigenous Knowledge, and local expertise into the planning and decision-making process. Native Americans in Philanthropy is partnering with the Department to provide additional matching funding for Tribes. This will support Tribes in building a strong foundation for co-stewardship, where Indigenous Knowledge will help develop collective action plans to support resilient ecosystems and local communities.
“We’re proud of this public-private partnership between our community of conservation funders and the administration,” said Erik Stegman, CEO, Native Americans in Philanthropy. “Philanthropy has a powerful role to play in supporting this critical Indigenous-led work alongside our federal partners.”
While in Alaska this week, Deputy Secretary Beaudreau visited with community members in the Native Village of Tyonek in Southcentral Alaska and toured a river restoration project along Tyonek Creek that has received over $1.6 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to remove barriers to fish passage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the State of Alaska, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other entities, has been working as partners with the community for many years to systematically improve fish passage where its roads cross salmon streams. This funding will replace the last undersized culvert along the creek with a channel-spanning bridge to open passage to salmon.
The Department is investing an overall $200 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law into the National Fish Passage Program over five years to bolster efforts to address outdated, unsafe or obsolete dams, culverts, levees and other barriers fragmenting our nation’s river and streams, which will help restore fish passages and aquatic connectivity while addressing public safety and enhancing recreation.
During the trip, Deputy Secretary Beaudreau met with local leaders and stakeholders in King Cove, as well as with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff in Cold Bay. At Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, he met with National Park Service staff and local community members to discuss the ongoing work to support subsistence uses in and around the park. He also met with Arctic Youth Ambassadors to hear about efforts to inspire the next generation of Alaska’s conservation leaders, as well as with members of the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, which seeks to elevate Alaska Natives in science and engineering career paths.
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