USGS Aids Tribes in Wildlife Recovery

By Cushing, Janet; Marcus, Susan | Endangered Species Bulletin, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

USGS Aids Tribes in Wildlife Recovery


Cushing, Janet, Marcus, Susan, Endangered Species Bulletin


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), primarily a research science bureau, does not have regulatory or land management responsibilities, so most of the activities described below are collaborations with tribes, tribal organizations, or professional societies. Others were conducted cooperatively with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) or other federal entities.

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The USGS realizes that Native American knowledge and cultural traditions bring unique perspectives that enrich USGS studies. The USGS work is done by collecting and reporting data, monitoring, and modeling to gather information that is used to explain the past in ways that are significant to understanding future conditions. The USGS also strives to increase the sensitivity and openness of our scientists to the breadth of Native knowledge, expanding the information on which our research is based. Below are several examples of USGS work with tribes and other partners on threatened and endangered species issues.

Kootenai River White Sturgeon Recovery

USGS biological scientists have worked in a multi-year partnership with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recover endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus). The Kootenai River Sub-Basin is an international watershed, and the river is the second largest tributary to the Columbia River. About 500 wild Kootenai River white sturgeon remain, and they spawn at specific locations within the spawning reach. USGS studies have focused on spawning success as it relates to incubation success, fish movement, bottom sediment, and stream flow modeling.

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In 2006, staff from the USGS Western Fisheries Research Center's Columbia River Research Laboratory conducted experiments at the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho's white sturgeon hatchery to investigate survival of white sturgeon eggs incubated on several types of river sediments. In addition, the USGS collaborated with Idaho Department of Fish and Game by providing telemetry equipment and expertise to monitor movements of spawning white sturgeon over an area scheduled for habitat improvements. A USGS facility, the S. O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, is conducting research on behavior and dispersal of the Kootenai River white sturgeon early life stages. The Kootenai Tribe supplied fertilized eggs for the USGS study.

The USGS Idaho Water Science Center and the USGS National Research Program, in cooperation with the Kootenai Tribe, are studying the sturgeon's spawning habitat near Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Scientists are using hydraulic and sediment-transport models to assess the feasibility of restoring natural sturgeon recruitment. The USGS continues developing a multidimensional computer model of the spawning reach that simulates river depth, down-stream and cross-stream flow velocities, flow direction, and sediment motion over a large range of stream flows. The model can simulate historical river flows as well as river management scenarios, and it will be used to design spawning habitat enhancement proposals.

Together, the egg incubation experiments, field telemetry studies, and hydraulic models provide the Kootenai Tribe and the Kootenai River White Sturgeon Recovery Team with information that will help guide habitat restoration. …

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