My name is Kendra Allen, and I have just started as the 2019 Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) member jointly serving with the Blackfeet Nation Fish & Wildlife and the Center for Large Landscape Conservation. After growing up in Minnesota, I headed east for a bit to the University of Massachusetts Amherst graduating with a BS in Environmental Science. While studying there, I took a semester abroad to live in a remote eco-village in Iceland studying “sustainability through community”, finishing off my degree a year early. Eager for my next adventure, AmeriCorps seemed liked the right fit, a perfect merge between my education and my new professional career. As an avid outdoorsman, I was also looking forward to getting a taste of the mountain lifestyle, while simultaneously getting to do what I love. It seemed almost too good to be true for a recent college graduate and reiterated my ideology that everything happens for a reason.
When I arrived in the Blackfeet Nation, in the middle of a record-breaking winter, I had few expectations on what I was about to experience. I was assigned to assist with the coordination and development of a “Beaver Project” (later changed to The Ksik Stakii Project,) despite the fact that my experience with beavers began and ended the one time I saw a beaver swimming away from me in a small boggy pond in Alaska. In addition, my only prior visit to the Blackfeet Nation was almost as brief as my beaver sighting; a quick pit stop in Browning after a backpacking trip in Glacier National Park. Still fresh out of college and without a clue on what I wanted to make out of my professional career, my decision to serve as a Big Sky Watershed Corps member turned out to be one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
When I found out that my new position would be based in Browning, I was excited and nervous to return for almost a full year after my brief stop in 2016. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a type of hospitality that I had never experienced in my life. After a massive blizzard, I couldn’t get to work because the highway to Browning was barricaded shut, which was commonplace. I decided to take a break from my “home office” and shovel my neighbor’s driveway. Before I could even make it across the street, I heard shouting, “Jacob! Come in for tea and cookies!” Being surrounded by friendly, welcoming people helped me feel accepted in my new neighborhood.
Blackfeet Community College Native Science Fellow Tiffany Hill attended the Montana Watershed Coordination Council Watershed Symposium in Whitefish, Montana on October 10-12. She co-presented with Big Sky Watershed Corps member Jacob LeVitus, where she shared her experience working on the Ksik Stakii Project. Tiffany is currently studying health science at Blackfeet Community College. After this semester, she is transferring to nursing school at MSU-Northern where she plans to graduate in 2021. After the symposium, Jacob sat down with her to hear more about her experience attending the event.
I learned a lot about waterat the Montana Watershed Coordination Council Watershed Symposium. Before the Symposium, I knew very little about water conservation, where we get our water from, what’s in our water, and why water is so important to our everyday lives. Read More
Water storage is becoming increasingly vital as western summers continue to become hotter, longer and drier in the midst of climate change. During the Ksik Stakii Project field program, students worked together to address the need for natural water storage while simultaneously learning new skills and strengthening relationships.
Beavers are regularly referred to as ecosystem engineers. Their contributions to the natural world include the creation of wetland habitat for fish and wildlife and the storage of ground and surface water. The beaver population in Blackfeet country is no different. They work hard to engineer dams using trees, willows, or whatever local supplies they can get their teeth on.
While beavers work hard to maintain the reservation’s rich biodiversity and help mitigate drought, their activity can create challenges. Unwanted beaver behavior can include the damming of culverts, the flooding of houses, and the removal of prized trees in public areas such as parks. Luckily, for people and for beavers, there are nonlethal management strategies that can mitigate these challenges. Read More
On May 8th and 9th, the Ksik Stakii Project hosted its first official site visit. For two days, project team members, students, and community members came together to plan, discuss, and begin the implementation of the project that is designed to build resilience to climate change while connecting traditional ecological knowledge and western science.
Our site visit began in the field, where we looked at potential beaver mimicry sites along Willow Creek. Amy Chadwick, wetland ecologist with Great West Engineering, and Jordan Kennedy, graduate student at Harvard, contributed their specialized input at each of the sites. Kennedy pointed out the scars of old beaver dams, beaver-made canals, and lodges. Chadwick analyzed the effectiveness of beaver mimicry be at each site. Blackfeet Community College Native Science Fellows participated by asking engaging questions throughout the tour.
The Blackfeet Environmental Office hosted an Earth Day Festival at Blackfeet Community College on April 20th. Throughout the day, volunteers gave away free trees, shrubs, and gardening plants to community members. Volunteers also helped by grilling and serving a delicious outdoor lunch on the beautiful 54-degree sunny day. Kids got their faces painted, and door prizes were given away throughout the festival.
Meanwhile, organizations like FAST (Food Access and Sustainability) Blackfeet, Blackfeet Fish & Wildlife, and the Blackfeet Agricultural Resource Management Plan (ARMP) focused on improving the health of our planet and the Blackfeet Nation set up booths inside the BCC commons and shared information with more than 400 students and 300 adults who participated.
In addition to playing an integral part in Blackfeet Culture and the fur trade and being ecosystem engineers, beavers are truly a remarkable species. In honor of International Beaver Day (April 7), we’ll explore four fascinating facts about beavers I’ll bet you didn’t know! Read More
Over the years, beavers have gained a reputation as “ecosystem engineers.” For millions of years, they have stayed busy building dams and lodges. After being severely threatened by the fur trade and seen as a nuisance species, conservation efforts changed the way people think about beavers and revitalized beaver populations. In part two of the Unbelievable Beaver Series, I will talk about the hard work beavers do to protect water and the hard work humans do to protect beavers.
Beavers have been a critically important species throughout history. Their presence has unquestionably transformed global economics, culture, and ecosystems alike. A world without beavers would look totally unrecognizable. In part one of the three-part Unbelievable Beaver Series, I will talk about the fur trade and the significance of beavers in Blackfeet culture.