Often I am asked to participate in events in my role as a Deputy Undersecretary. Other times I participate based on my heritage, as a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Sometimes, the lines blur, as they did recently when I addressed those attending the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign meeting here at USDA.
Pollinator health is tied closely to the overall health of ecosystems. Pollinators are important to producers of a wide variety of crops, and to forest health. Native Americans grasp how all things are interconnected. I told the audience that when I was a boy, my relatives would sing songs in Apache. These songs were about things in nature: evergreens, water, even the rocks. All things are tied to Mother Earth: all things work together. So it is with pollinators.
I feel strongly that heritage and education together can be a powerful force. I’ve been blessed to be selected by former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to serve as State Forester, and now I work for Secretary Vilsack and the Obama Administration as a Deputy Undersecretary. In my roles I have worked to bring Tribes into the mix. To ensure that they have a voice in the decision making process. For example, the Intertribal Ag Council works closely with organizations promoting pollinator health. But we need more people to follow me in challenging careers like forestry, agriculture, and science. Education is the key.
Earlier this year, I lost a dear friend, Billy Frank Jr., whose life was dedicated to wild salmon. He knew that all things in the world are interconnected-No clean water, no salmon. What drives us all is the health of mother earth. We must harvest resources, but in a sustainable way. We must provide sound management. Millions of acres are under Tribal, Federal and State management and while we can see the lines on a map, the need for ecosystem health does not know boundaries.
As it goes with pollinators, so it goes with the Earth as a whole.
Later this month, USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency will hold two public listening sessions to solicit stakeholder input on the Pollinator Health Task Force’s development of a federal strategy.