Context of CRITFC’s Engagement
The Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) excels in coordinating management policy, and working with tribes (Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Nez Perce) to supply fishing technical services. CRITFC has a long legal history proving it’s efficiency in providing services to the groups that need them. The commission has a focus on educating the tribes about “invaluable biological research, fisheries management, hydrology, and other science to support the protection and restoration of Columbia River Basin salmon, lamprey, and sturgeon” (link). CRITFC strives to meet its goals of putting fish back into the rivers through restoration projects, protecting tribal treaty rights, sharing salmon culture, and providing fisher services (link).
While CRITFC performs well in achieving their mission goals, there is possibility for further engagement to educate more people. To educate more people about salmon culture, and the importance of restoring tribal treaty fishing rights. As of right now, there is a focus on educating the tribes in CRITFC, educating the youth through their salmon activity book meant for K-12 students, and providing internship opportunities to learn more about fishery and natural resource management. But I think there would be potentially more room for growth if CRITFC took on a more dialogic model of communication. CRITFC could accomplish this by having monthly forums where any group or stakeholder is welcome to have a discussion with CRITFC and its representative entities. This in turn would lead to more comprehensive management policy, and would provide better fishing technical services to the four tribes.
Conducting the Forums
To explain further, I think CRITFC would largely benefit from more discussion with other stakeholders that have opposing goals of CRITFC, along with other parties who may have no affiliation with CRITFC or it’s goals but want to learn more. These forums could happen on a monthly basis, and be open essentially to the general public. This essentially creates a safe space for conversation towards action to occur, and broadens the outreach CRITFC already conducts.
The stakeholders involved in the forums would include CRITFC (i.e. commissioners, tribe representatives, fishery managers, enforcement officers, scientists, and other legal representatives), and essentially any other group that wants to learn more or sort through issues with CRITFC. Some groups that would make sense to further engage with CRITFC in this way would include hydroelectric companies, other tribes along the Columbia River, students, and other local residents who may be impacted by CRITFC’s legal decisions.
A good framework to compare this sort of engagement to would be the Mt. Hood National Forest’s advisory committee or “Stew Crew”. This committee brings together different partners and groups to improve the quality of work they do. We met with them during our Reconnaissance Trip in January, and the members explained how creating a safe space to discuss conflict yielded more widespread likable decisions, and brought the community closer together. They didn’t claim it was easy, but they did say it was productive. That is why I think CRITFC would benefit from a similar committee or forum. They would then have more opportunities in neutral territories, as opposed to entering a discussion of issue on the defensive or offensive due to biases of a situation.