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Southeast Environmental Conference wraps up

Posted: June 30, 2011 - 10:01pm

The Southeast Environmental Conference, an event sponsored by the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (CCTHITA) as a way to spark collaboration between the Southeast tribes and corporations on environmental topics, concluded Thursday.

Those involved said it was a big success in getting the talking started.

CCTHITA environmental technician Howard Gray said there very significant dialogues between cross generations, as both elders and youths were able to see examples of collaborative efforts between agencies and their tribes.

“They acknowledged they had a lot of the same concerns,” said Gray.

Some of these agencies consisted of the Juneau Watershed Partnership and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

DEC Environmental Program Specialist Evonne Reese gave a representation of online tools for finding information about contaminated sites, several of which are located at tribal sites, so people can look them up.

Reese said this is a good example of how such agencies can cooperate with the tribes, both through making them aware of the technology and to share some success stories of the state and federal grants behind it, which some tribes are interested in applying for.

Eric Morrison of the Douglas Indian Association felt the time spent was a real learning experience.

“I think we’ll develop a lot of subjects out of that,” he said, giving an example of how the Douglas Indian Association is looking forward to doing some sampling on the Taku River because of mining in Canada. Therefore, it was revealing to learn about other communities, like Kasaan and Yakutat, that have done similar samplings in their own areas and can provide advice on it.

“I think we got what we came there for,” he said.

Morrison also spoke on the youth summer program and how other communities were interested in this experience of seeing the youth working in their territorial properties.

Three of those teens from the Environmental Youth Leadership Team were glad to get to be part of the conference for the first time. Seventeen-year-old Nicole George said she held a lot of interest toward science and its work on conservation issues and was glad to get the interaction with such agencies.

“Even before coming here, heating about water quality was a good issue that I would explore either with EYLT or on my own,” she said.

George presented her team, Partners Against Plastics, at the conference to seek collaboration on reducing the amount of plastic bag usage and working more on introducing reusable bags as a solution.

“I got a lot of feedback because this is a widespread issue a lot of communities are dealing with,” she said.

Also on her youth team were Rolonda Scaife, 15, and Jamelyn Zeller, 17. They, too, were strongly encouraged by water quality, fish quality and plastic issues. Zeller said the information she received helped her know that, while it may take years, routine change can be possible for this cause.

Gray said that he would have liked to see more representation of the tribes on a regional level as well as the ANCSA corporations but that time circumstances don’t always allow that. He said this conference’s timing was planned to reach as many as possible.

“The time frame for this one was voted on by tribes so it didn’t interfere with harvest,” he said. “It was an optimal time to have the collaborations we had.”

Gray hopes such tribes will be available next time.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.

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