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USDA and Alaska Tribal Governments – Teamwork at Its Best

They say nothing beats teamwork and that can certainly be said about a very forward-thinking and ambitious project being led by USDA-Rural Development in Alaska.

USDA-RD Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund is leading the efforts to coordinate several federal agencies in organizing statewide collaboration meetings with Alaska tribal governments.  The collaboration will involve 12-18 meetings held over the next eleven months.  This effort is in response to a memorandum signed by President Obama directing federal agencies to engage in regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials.

There are 229 federally recognized tribes in Alaska and nearly all coincide with rural villages.  The USDA led plan involves face-to-face collaboration meetings with the acknowledged leader or single point of contact for each tribe. The meetings will be held in local communities and will involve a conversation with several tribal leaders in an area that is geographically distinct and culturally homogenous.

“Collaboration with 229 tribes in their local areas is a large undertaking, but we feel this is the best way to understand the needs of Native communities and to seek their advice,” said Nordlund.     “Through these meetings we hope to strengthen the government-to-government relationship between tribal leaders and the federal government; provide an overview, by topic, of certain federal programs that have an effect on tribes; and engage in constructive dialogue, respond to questions and solicit ideas regarding federal programs,” added Nordlund.

The consultation discussions will be focused on five topics:

  • Food production, availability and nutrition
  • Rural housing
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service and Forest Service
  • Rural utilities (electric, telecom, solid waste, sewer and water)
  • Rural economic and community development

Five USDA agencies will participate in the meetings, including Rural Development, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Forest Service, and Food and Nutrition Service.  Additionally, five other federal agencies with similar programs will be represented, including: Department of Housing and Urban Development, Small Business Administration, Economic Development Administration, Department of Energy and the Denali Commission.

USDA Farm Service Agency Executive State Director Danny Consenstein said, “Food security is a big issue in our rural areas.  Not only are fish and game important, but growing more local  produce can create jobs, healthier food, and more self-sufficient communities.  I’m excited to talk with and learn from tribal leaders about this important topic.”

“I look forward to participating in the collaborations and hearing directly from tribal leaders about what they need and expect from federal agencies.  It will be an opportunity to explain our programs and the assistance we can provide,” said Bob Jones, State Conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Alaska Inter-Tribal Council (AITC) will be coordinating the logistics for the meetings.  The places and dates for the meeting will be determined by the tribes in consultation with AITC.

For more information, contact Gene Kane at USDA-RD (907) 271-3025, gene.kane@ak.usda.gov.

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