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Alaska State Technical Committee Meeting Notes May 2010

Alaska State Technical Committee Meeting Notes

May, 2010
 
Notes

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
State Technical Committee Meeting

May 26, 2010
USDA Conference Room, Palmer, Alaska

 

Welcome and Introductions, State Resources Conservationist, Eugene Schock

Opening Remarks,   State Conservationist Robert Jones

Reported year’s progress. Pleased with first year of new staff in Nome, Aniak, and Dillingham. Looking forward to hearing the mid-year briefing which will be provided in this meeting.

 

Nelson Angapak, Sr., Vice President of Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) requested ten minutes to speak.  Commented of the history of the Native Lands Act in Alaska, Pointed out Native Villages are located where wildlife is plentiful.  Requested equitable treatment and funding for Alaska natives and Alaska as to other States.  Noted Rhode Island funding per acres as compared to Alaska funding per acres.  Recalled US Secretary of Agriculture, Vilsack, visited Alaska last summer and how Vilsack asked how USDA could better serve Alaska natives.  Requested equitable funding, again. Commented prime waterfowl land is owned by Alaska Natives.  Questioned NRCS funding spent on managing waterfowl.  Requested Alaska Native Lands are treated equitably. 

 

Overview of Farm Bill Programs, Assistant State Conservationist for Programs, Al White

Began by reminding meeting participants that NRCS is in mid year and program dollars are changing rapidly. 

See attached report along with the following comments:

CSP (from 2002 Farm Bill, FB) has six contracts.  Fiscal year Payments are $21,168.  All CSP from 2002 FB are on Kenai.                          

CSP (2008 FB) is open continuously.  Next ranking period closes June 11, 2010.   

FRPP is an easement program requiring a match.  Alaska partners most often with Alaska Farmland Trust (AFT).  AFT mostly works in the Valley.

GRP is an easement program and partly a rental program.  All applications were funded in last GRP.

WHIP is for wildlife habitat

WRP is an easement program for wetlands that have become agricultural lands.

RC&D provides technical assistance only.

See attached presentation

Numbers in presentation are from the NRCS data system. The US Census information is for reference only.

 

Questions/Discussion

Nick Begich, Tyonek Native Corporation, Consultant asked if WHIP cannot be used on some waterways designated as not navigational.  He informed committee that Tyonek Native Corporation (TNC) owns water that are not state governed as navigational.

Tom Harris, TNC commented that he speaks as an Alaskan and that Alaska is not receiving funding per acre as compared to other states.  Requests Alaska NRCS does more for Wildlife.

Molly Voeller, State Public Affairs Specialist described NRCS as the agency that comes in after conservation problems have occurred, not when the landscape is in good condition.  She reminded the committee that NRCS has no authority to conduct wildlife management.

Corey Rossi, Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) spoke up that it is ADF&G who is responsible for managing wildlife.

Scott Crocket, Resource Conservationist explained that traditional western agricultural practices are more expensive than most practices conducted in Alaska and that is why other states receive and spend more in NRCS cost shared practices. 

Craig Fleener, ADF&G asked about the land figures in the presentation.  The land figures are only those in contracts with NRCS.

Nelson Angapak, Sr. Vice President AFN commented that Alaska receives 35 cents per acre verses other states receiving $62 per acres and he does not believe that is equitable.

Bill Wood, State Biologist described that benefit for cost per acre is not the same a dollars spent cost per acre.  Example provided that improving moose brose costs significantly less per acres than a practice improving conservation in row cropping in the lower 48.

Charles Parker, Alaska Village Initiative (AVI) provided a summary of the discussion and commented on his appreciation of how much NRCS does in Alaska.

Al White shared new opportunity to work on the North Slope.

Molly Voeller will share NRCS contacts with Charles Bunch, Bureau of Indian Affairs.  He has contacts with all tribes.  (Note:  NRCS sent letters to all 229 tribes in Alaska in 2009.)

Tom Harris, TNC asked why more people don’t come to State Tec Meetings.  Commented that NRCS needs more outreach

Craig Fleener discussed that everyone needs to help to keep NRCS funding in Alaska (not send back any to HDQ) and more outreach from everyone in group was the answer.

Tom Harris commented that he would like additional metrics in charts of dollars per acre spent in Alaska.

Telephone participant, Jim Sartucci, TNC attorney, asked if NRCS could show funding by acre

Ron Wolfe, Sealaska, telephone participant, said he wishes he could be here and he wished no funding was ever returned to HDQ and that the group should try to get more applications submitted.  Applauded NRCS in sharing information.  Noticed SE Alaska has come a long way in utilizing EQIP.  Wants enough applications that Alaska can use Regional Funding.  Pledged to continue to work with NRCS.

 

Scott Crockett, Resource Conservationist,2010 Application and Contract Status

See attached presentation

Tom Harris, TNC disagreed with Subsistence considered agriculture.

Scott explained subsistence being classified as agriculture allows subsistence conservation concerns to be funded through EQIP.

See attached handouts

Questions/Discussion

Nick Begich, TNC and Scott discus EQIP Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) funding and the application process. Timing of National and State Applications –National first and state following national competition. 

Bill Wood explained that habitat management is only part of the WHIP program, not CIG.

Tom Harris, TNC provided a handout to prove Alaska had a need for assistance.  Handout figures are from 2004.  Said that Alaska Natives are becoming homeless because of a lack of wildlife.

Pat Valkenburg, ADF&G summarized that the group all wants to see more money spent in Alaska and not sent back to HDQ and asked if NRCS can build capacity with our funding.

Bill and Al answered no, capacity building is not funded per Congress but NRCS often works with other agencies and NGOs.

Craig Fleener, ADF&G commented that the RC&D program in Fort Yukon was helpful

Break

 

Forest Resource Assessment & Strategy, Jeff Graham, AK – Department of Forestry (DOF)

See Power Point and comments

AKDOF often works with US Forest Service (USFS) and the lesser known USFS branch of state and private forestry.  The 2008 FB required states to completed assessment on all forestland.  Information is required to be shared at State Tec Meetings across nation. 

The complete report will soon be posted to the AKDOF webpage. 

Questions/Discussion

Craig Fleener, ADF&G asked if the group could get a copy of the full report?

Jeff Graham, AKDOF, will send the link to Gene when it is up and NRCS will send electronically to people attending this meeting.

Craig Fleener, ADF&G asked if funding driven by land or by population?

Jeff Graham, AKDOF, replied: Both.  DOF works with National Resource Inventory of Forestry.  NRI is in progress

Tom Harris, TNC, passed out letter from US Secretary of Agriculture saying that NRI is being done outside of Alaska and questioned the NRI process

Gene Schock, explained that the NRCS NRI expert is not attending the meeting, NRI data is public data.

Bob Jones, said he has not seen plan for how NRI in Alaska going to be done.  Much work will be through satellite imagery.

Gene Schock suggested the NRI expert could give presentation on satellite imagery.

Tom Harris, TNC said it is critical that elders see data as they will see things untrained/unknowing eyes do not see.

Jeff Graham, AKDOF, concluded his presentation and provided his contact information:

Phone:  (907) 761 6309          email: jeff.graham@alaska.gov

 

Kenai Brown Bear Exclosure Presentation, Bill Wood, State Biologist

See attached presentation

Kenai Peninsula is home to some of the greatest forest resources, rivers, and wildlife.

The population of humans grown by 10 percent in past years even though it has a higher cost of living than most of US and Alaska.  Humans and wildlife interaction problems coming to surface.

Kenai Brown Bears are an important part of habitat on Kenai:  they are considered and Keystone species and designated a Species of Special Concern by the State of Alaska. Bears have a conditioned response and learn what they can and should do and not. Chart on presentation showing reflects up to year 2009, not just 2000 as graph depicts. Bears are discovering sources of food and continue to come to human activities. 

Proposal to add to the WHIP plan: Bear exclosure to reduce the incidence of killing Kenai Brown Bear.

Electric fences have been proven as bear control for last 45 years back to 1940s.  Well researched technology .  In last 5 to 7 years, become more portable for humans.  Now being used more throughout Alaska. Presentation reviews technology.

Initial Elements:  max size of 1 acre in an effort to not fragment habitat further.  Fence in very small sizes like smoke houses, chicken coops.

Questionnaire, guidelines are in development for consideration by State Conservationist.  Land management plans must be in place.

Kenai Brown Bear need to be able to use their habitat they have left and we can reduce the potential for bear human interaction that hinders that bear.

Questions/Discussion

Charles Parker, AVI, asked if “Species of Concern” is designated because they have genetic separation? 

Pat Valkenburg, or Corey Rossi, ADF&G shared that brown bear may soon be removed from species of special concern

Charles Parker, AVI, questioned if NRCS is considering other predator and human interactions around state.  Some bear populations are high, like in Tyonek.  And, asked if NRCS had discussed this potential program with Alaska Natives on Kenai?  He is concerned this would be difficult to sell in public relations as some places have over population and this program would be protecting bears.

Craig Fleener, ADF&G, asked if there had been a study of where will bears go after they have been “zapped”.  Will this take into account the movement of animals into other property?

Bill Wood explained that bears currently come to these sights because of specific attractions, ie chickens.  After first time of being “zapped” bears tend to leave the fenced area.

Craig Fleener, ADF&G surmised then the bears would have a greater chance of moving onto other property.  His interest is in people having enough food,,,,,protecting or enhancing prey species.

Bill Wood explained the difference in NRCSs policy between fenced and non fenced animals.  Non-fenced animals are not considered livestock.

Tom Harris, TNC, commented the black bear is very heavy in Tyonek.  Tyonek is big land owner in Kenai. He is interested in protecting moose calves.  Without bear protection, moose calves are dead in 2 weeks.  The state is losing an enormous number of moose.  He believes there are more bears than their used to be.

Someone asked if this program could be used to provide protection to moose calves?

Bill Wood answered NRCS does not fence-in wild ranging animals.  Only because the bear is a State Species of Concern would NRCS consider this program and only for habitat protection of the Kenai Brown Bear.  This program would not be about predator control.  

Telephone participant, Bruce Willard, Homer area Rancher, wanted to know where facts are coming from and he requested fencing to protect livestock.

Bill Wood explained that reducing bear killings would be intent of program, not in protecting what is in the fence.

Nick Begich, TNC, commented that the State and NRCS needed more discussion

ADF&G employees agree topic needs more discussion.  Protecting bear is always an interest of their agency.

Nelson Angapak, Sr., AFN Vice President requested group limit the discussion.

ADF&G employees ask what percentage of bear incidents have to do with chicken coops and the like?  ADF&G employees believe more incidents have to do with garbage and compost sites.

 

Questions and Open Discussion / New items

First time attendee Charles Bunch, Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), offered to contact all tribes.  Invited NRCS to the once a year a meeting at Egon Center.  “Conference for providers”. 

Molly Voeller will provide contacts of NRCS employees with contact names to Charles in early June.  NRCS will be glad to attend the conference at the Egon Center again as have in past.

Tom Harris, TNC shared a chart and shared that the cost of $3,000 to $5,000 to get the chart.  Wants NRCS to reach more rural Alaskans.  Wants more outreach. Comments that Alaska Village Initiatives has outreach tools.  He said, “Speaking as an Alaskan and American– the moose and reindeer are in desperate terms. We are witnessing the beluga whale demise.  Please get involved with the survival of the species.”  He says he is very anxious for more outreach.  Claims Tyonek is about to be overrun.  Tom encourages NRCS to hold State Tech meetings in other places and asks that the promises of the Secretary and promises of President be fulfilled.  Tyonek would like to participate in Tribal consultation.  He says Tyonek is here to complete, not compete with Farmers and Ranchers.  Alaskans are losing their children and future.  Asks that NRCS has state Tech Meetings in each region of Alaska and even consider regional equity for each Alaska region.  Wants to grow wildlife.  Knows NRCS does not own wildlife.  Recommends the video from Montana  “Listening to the Living Land.”  He welcomes NRCS to contact him.  Requests these meetings are held more often and in more locations.

Nick Begich, TNC comments on locating working groups.  Proposes local working groups are built and used as a way NRCS can connect to communities and advance programs in regions.  (Note: Alaska has working groups in place.)

ADF&G employees are looking forward to a new relationship.  Sounds like NRCS made changes that work well for Farm Bill.  AKF&G will request F&G funding for four people to work with NRCS Farm Bill and Native Lands.

Nelson Anganpak, Sr., AFN Vice President shared he thought the meeting was productive and glad for sharing information.  Maximize of opportunities to collaborate.  Suggested a follow up meeting focused on how all funds can be used; a means for future opportunities.  He has the ability to share information to 229 federally recognized tribes and we should take advantage of that as part of Outreach.  He says NRCS could benefit whole state by hiring people in rural Alaska.  The follow up meeting should be totally focused on how to spend all the funds. 

Tom Harris, TNC shares how Alaska Native Communities are now accepting fuel from Venezuela to save money for food.  He is looking at NRCS to allow the villages to say no to Venezuela’s help. 

Telephone participant Geri Simon, TNC, brought up a that outreach needs to go to villages and Cooperation

Gary Lawrence, Knik Tribal Council (KTC) asked if land can be used as match in programs? 

NRCS answered no

Gary Lawrence, KTC asked if NRCS goes through cultural resources? 

NRCS answered yes

Gary Lawrence, KTC asked if Energy Carbon Credits are sold – if NRCS can still do cost share on conservation practices? 

NRCS answered yes ,we have not done before but we think NRCS can still do work on land after the carbon credits have been sold. 

Gary Lawrence, KTC asked if after soils surveys, will forest management be done from the soil survey? 

NRCS answered yes other agencies may do that.  Forestry usually develops forest management plans.

Nelson Angapak, Sr., AFN Vice President requested again that a follow up meeting takes place.

Gene explains that the intent of every meeting is to get input.

Bob Jones asked if AFN would like to call that meeting?

Nelson Angapak, Sr., AFN Vice President does not want a meeting for the sake of a meeting.

All Agree and Bob says he would join if a meeting took place.

Nelson Angapak, Sr., AFN Vice President commented that he hopes guest from Washington, Walt Douglas, USDA, takes message back to the Secretary and told Walt to tell Secretary they remember his promises from last summer. 

Walt says he supports our meeting.  Stated that  Bob Jones requested AFN to host meeting. Walt said he was impressed by the conversation.  Supported the group for frank and honest comments.  Thanked for having him here and gave a special thanks to Tom Harris for the visit to Tyonek. 

Tom Harris asked, can AFN and AVI host the follow up meeting in next 30 days.  Nelson Angapak, Sr., AFN Vice President says okay as long as it does not interrupt with King Salmon fishing.

                                                                                      

Adjourn, Eugene Schock

 

Presentations and Handouts

These documents require Adobe Acrobat
To request these documents in another format, contact Executive Assistance Dee Covalt at the Alaska NRCS State Office at (907) 761-7747 or phillma.covalt@ak.usda.gov.

News Release on CSP
Presentation on WHIP
Presentation from Alaska Department of Forestry
Handout on Brown Bears
Presentation on Farm Bill Equality
Handout on 2010 EQIP Obligations
Handout on Programs

 

Attendees

Johnson, Erik Alaska Division of Agriculture
Fleener, Craig Alaska Division of Fish and Game
Rossi, Corey Alaska Division of Fish and Game
Valkenburg, Pat Alaska Division of Fish and Game
Graham, Jeff Alaska Division of Forestry
Angapak Sr., Nelson Alaska Federation of Natives
Parker, Charles Alaska Village Initiatives
Bunch, Charles Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs
LaCroix, Matthew Environmental Protection Agency
Lawrence, Gary Knik Tribal Council
Crockett, Scott Natural Resources Conservation Service
Douglas, Walt Natural Resources Conservation Service
Jones, Bob Natural Resources Conservation Service
Schock, Gene Natural Resources Conservation Service
Voeller, Molly Natural Resources Conservation Service
White, Al Natural Resources Conservation Service
Wood, Bill Natural Resources Conservation Service
Begich, Nick Tyonek Native Corporation
Harris, Tom Tyonek Native Corporation
Peck, Linda Tyonek Native Corporation
Stephan, Sr, Robert Tyonek Native Corporation /Tyonek Tribal Conservation District
Kruse, Merlaine US Department of Agriculture / Rural Development

Telephone Participants
Rainwater, Chris Rancher, Homer, AK
Willard, Bruce Rancher, Homer, AK
Otto Kilcher Rancher, Homer, AK
Wolfe, Ron Sealaska Corporation
Sartucci, Jim Tyonek Native Corporation
Simon, Geri Tyonek Native Corporation