A group of environmental leaders from Asian countries recently visited the Northwest.
For many of the delegates, a highlight of their experience was a meeting with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (NWIFC), an organization that provides both technical assistance as well as advocacy services for 20 Native-American tribes in western Washington State to support their role as natural resource co-managers. Billy Frank, chairman of NWIFC, and Jim Peters, a habitat policy analyst, spoke about the unique perspective and concerns of tribal groups for whom salmon fisheries form a central part of their way of life and cultural identity. The delegation was impressed with the advances that tribal groups have made in getting their voices heard and in influencing water resource management decisions in the Columbia River Basin. Following heartfelt presentations by Frank and Peters, several of the delegates remarked that they had a new-found appreciation for the needs of the minority populations in their own countries whose way of life is similarly closely tied to the use of natural resources. While the goal of their trip to the U.S. was to learn about policy mechanisms related to natural resource management, the stories and the first-hand perspectives that were shared during the study tour were, in this way, more personal and dynamic than a mere textbook study of environmental policy.