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Eastern Band of Cherokee Leading NC Wildlife Conservation Efforts

In North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee has led conservation efforts to protect black elk and other wildlife on tribal lands. (Adobe Stock)
In North Carolina, the Eastern Band of Cherokee has led conservation efforts to protect black elk and other wildlife on tribal lands. (Adobe Stock)
December 30, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. - Advocates say the survival of more than 450 species in North Carolina hinges on conservation action, and legislation currently being considered by Congress would give the state around $26 million annually to support species conservation.

Some of that money would go specifically to the Eastern Band of Cherokee, the only federally recognized tribal nation in the state. Mike LaVoie is natural-resource manager for tribe. He said Native American tribes own or influence the management of nearly 140 million acres nationwide.

"Tribes have a large responsibility for conserving wildlife in America," LaVoie said. "Tribal lands are sovereign nations and have the authority to manage fish and wild populations that exist within their boundaries."

He also pointed out that although tribes have historically not been eligible for federal funding, tribal lands continue to provide vital habitat for more than 500 threatened and endangered plants and animals.

LaVoie said Cherokee lands located in the southern Appalachians are teeming with biodiversity and rare species, many of which hold cultural significance.

"The eastern elk, as well as other non-game species such as box turtle, all receive focused conservation efforts," he said.

Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, said the state's lucrative outdoor recreation economy depends on healthy wildlife populations.

"Game species over the years have received plenty of funding from hunting, fishing licenses and gear," Gestwicki said. "But the non-game species, the species we depend upon for pollinating our crops, for cleaning our rivers and ecosystems, and for overall ecological health, do not receive the funding."

Species identified as being under threat include the cerulean warbler songbird, an aquatic salamander known as the eastern hellbender, and the bog turtle.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC