A brief description of a visit by people from Paraguay to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation.
Written by Ashley Warriner & Hannah Tomlinson
The US Forest Service Office of International Programs (USFS-IP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) partnered with Paraguay to promote improved land management, with an emphasis in sustainable grazing practices, as part of an effort to reduce deforestation and conserve biodiversity in the Gran Chaco region. The Chaco is an ecoregion spread across Paraguay, Argentina, and Bolivia that contains a diversity of ecosystems including savannahs, shrublands, wetlands, and the largest dry forest in the world. The region also has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, driven by agricultural development and cattle ranching. USFS-IP is providing technical assistance to WWF-Paraguay and landowners to educate and adopt silvopasture grazing systems to mitigate deforestation. Partnership goals include improving wildlife habitat and animal husbandry, mitigate climate change, and increase land productivity.
The USFS-IP invited WWF-Paraguay employees, cattle ranchers, academics, and land managers to eastern Washington July 10th -14th, 2023 to observe livestock grazing and silvopasture systems in natural forest and grassland settings on federal, private, and tribal lands. Ashley Warriner, Program Manager for USFS-IP Latin America and Caribbean, and Tom Ward, USDA-NRCS Forester from the East National Technology Support Center, coordinated with Hannah Tomlinson, USDA-NRCS Soil Conservationist for the Colville Tribal Team to tour applicable projects on July 13th, 2023, on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation (CTCR).
Hannah Tomlinson coordinated with Kerry Wilson, Jessie Utt, and Brandt Harvey, CTCR Range Department, and Clint Desautel, CTCR Mt. Tolman, and Liz Odell, CTCR Fish and Wildlife, to coordinate a field tour of livestock grazing and forest health projects on the reservation. The Paraguayans had stayed in Republic the night before and headed down HWY 21 to Bridge Creek turnoff where they met Kerry, Jessie, and Brandt who led the caravan to Gold Mountain. Gold Mountain is an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funded projected to reduce wildfire fuels, open-up the canopy for huckleberries, and create elk corridors on mountain top ridges. The project is a combination of thinning, pruning, piling, and mastication of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. The post-treatment trees per acre ranged from 70 to 110 to meet management objectives. Clint and Liz talked about the tribal National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) process and cultural significance of huckleberries and elk to the local indigenous population.
Figure 1: Gold Mountain Wells Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) project off Bridge Creek Hwy. EQIP cost-share project for thinning, pruning, and piling treatments in the background. There were eleven Paraguayan land representatives, plus two Paraguayan interpreters. Wireless headsets and microphones were used to transmit Spanish to representatives.
The next stop was a bathroom break at Twin Lakes, in Inchelium, WA. The group took pictures, stretched their legs, and used campground facilities. Kerry, Jessie, and Brandt shared several plot maps of Range Unit 71 (16,000 acres), and talked about grazing infrastructure, useable forest resources due to slope conditions, and forage capacity using ecological site descriptions and range studies conducted in 2010 and 2020. The group was provided tablets with an Avenza map of the range unit to track their location on the way to the next field tour stop.
Figure 2: Group picture/selfie at Twin Lakes, in Inchelium, WA
Figure 3: Group picture of the guys on the campground dock on Twin Lakes, in Inchelium, WA.
Figure 4: Picture of the women holding the Paraguayan Flag on Twin Lakes, in Inchelium, WA, Ashley Warriner, USFS-IP, on the far right.
Figure 5: Group picture of CTCR and USDA-NRCS folks with the Paraguayan field tour group on Twin Lakes, in Inchelium, WA.
Figure 6: Kerry, Jessie, and Brandt holding and talking about a plot map of Range Unit 71 at Twin Lakes Campground, in Inchelium, WA.
The next field site was Chuck and Luanne Finley’s ranch on Kewa Road near Inchelium, WA. Chuck and Luanne Finely currently run 80 head of cattle on Range Unit 71. Luanne had set-up chairs in her yard under the tree, so people could eat their lunches in the shade. Chuck Finley briefly talked about wolf and cattle interactions and showed the group pictures of wolves he had trapped and killed before returning to the field to cut hay. CTCR tribal members are allowed to harvest wolves within reservation boundaries and in the northern half of Okanogan and Ferry County. The group was interested in hearing about the wolves and cattle interactions as they have similar predation issues with leopards in Paraguay. Fortunately, the Finley’s have not lost any cattle to wolves since their reintroduction to the reservation. They believe it is because there is enough big game available to meet the pack(s) needs.
Luanne shared pictures of her cows and discussed projects she had done with CTCR Range and USDA-NRCS with EQIP cost-share to improve her operation. She discussed their grazing rotation using the plot map and talked about the turn-in and turn-out dates on the range unit. She also discussed wildfire and how that it has impacted their operation as they had to cut back to half the cattle to rebuild infrastructure. Luanne pointed out the behavior of two wildfires that threated her property on both sides of her ranch in the last few years. The fire on the left was started by lightning and was high severity, high intensity, and stand replacing. The other fire on the right side of the farmstead was started by a down electrical line and pushed towards the ranch by wind. The fire on the right-side was low severity and intensity due to completion of an EQIP thinning, pruning, and piling project a few years prior. The groups seemed receptive to talking to a local rancher and learning how the Finleys utilize 16,000 acres of tribal forest land and clapped for her when they found out it was just her and Chuck running the farm.
Figure 7: The group sitting under the shade tree at the Finley farmstead asking Luanne Finely questions about her and Chuck’s cattle operation.
Figure 8: The group presented Luanne Finely, pictured on the left with a blue shirt, a hand-woven placemat with the Paraguayan flag as a thank you for talking and sharing knowledge on the field tour.
The last field stop was off Inchelium Hwy on Barnaby Creek on the way to Kettle Falls, WA where Clint had completed fuel treatments in 2012. These fuels treatments on Barnaby Creek were the same fuel prescriptions completed on Gold Mountain. The unit was also logged prior to thinning with the main difference being grazing keeping the understory brush at bay on Barnaby Creek. The group observed the cows grazing the snowberry and pinegrass during our site visit. Clint says CTCR Mt. Tolman works on a 15-year fuels rotation and the Barnaby Creek unit would be up for reentry in 2027 but is not needed under the current grazing regime and the tribe can focus efforts on other treatment areas. Liz also talked about the importance of the Barnaby Creek treatment area for elk, moose, and mule deer winter range as detected using aerials surveys. Liz, Clint, and Kerry answered questions about management of multiple resources and tribal sovereignty.
The CTCR is comprised of ten-thousand enrolled tribal members and the NEPA process is accelerated as compared to other federal land agencies because the only people who can comment on proposed land actions are tribal members and individuals living within the reservation boundaries. Tribal sovereignty is the right of Native Americans to govern themselves. CTCR can effectively manage timber, wildfire fuels, water and air, fisheries, and wildlife resources with established programs and routine coordination through the CTCR Integrated Resource Management Plan. Other federal land management agencies experience a higher level of litigation and difficulty implementing large scale projects as compared to federally recognized tribes. The Paraguayans expressed positive feedback as the tour ended and the group headed to Spokane, WA.
Figure 9: Hannah Tomlinson and Clint Desautel wave at a logging truck going by on Barnaby Creek.
Figure 10: Cows grazing near the road. The cows eventually moved away from the creek on the left-hand side to the right-side of the road and resumed grazing as the temperature cooled off after 3:30 pm.
Figure 11: Kerry Wilson walking through the fuels treatment area to get an estimate on the type of forage the cows were grazing. The group did not follow because Clint Desautel warned the group of Timber Rattlesnakes in the area.
Figure 12: Kerry, Liz, and Clint talking and answering questions form the group about forest grazing, logging, fuels, and wildlife usage in the area and on the reservation in general.
Figure 13: The group presented thank you gifts from Paraguay to Clint and Liz, tribal employees, for spending the day with them and sharing their knowledge.