OLYMPIA — Tribal leaders in western Washington are praising the Obama Administration today for a long-sought funding increase for tribal treaty rights-based natural resources management.

The president’s FY 2011 budget increases the Rights Protection account in the Bureau of Indian Affairs budget to $28.5 million, a 60 percent increase in funding levels over the past decade. The increase comes after a decade of stagnant funding and a strong message from Congress through its FY2010 appropriations bills that tribal resource management has been long-neglected.

“It is gratifying to know that the administration is listening,” said Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “We have been talking about these needs for many years, but this time we have been heard.”

Rights Protection, located in the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs budget, supports co-management by treaty tribes in the Pacific Northwest, Columbia River and Great Lakes areas. Tribal harvest management, research, enforcement and participation in international agreements, such as the Pacific Salmon Treaty, are all supported through the Rights Protection account.

“This is a new day for us,” Frank said, adding that tribal co-management has become more vital as state budgets for natural resource management have declined. “This funding increase will benefit not only the natural resources, but every one who lives in the state and region,” he said.

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For more information, contact: Tony Meyer, information and education manager, NWIFC, (360) 528-4325, tmeyer@nwifc.org