ISU Leads Natural Resources Project with Native American Colleges

February 28th, 2002

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University will lead a $3.8 million partnership to strengthen natural resources education in communities served by Native American colleges in the middle Missouri River watershed.

The $3,876,000 grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Initiative for the Future Agriculture and Food Systems program. The grant is one of the largest ever received by ISU for an integrated teaching, extension and research program.

Conducting the project will be Iowa State and seven other land-grant schools in North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. Four of the institutions are tribal colleges.

The project will enhance educational opportunities for students, farmers, ranchers and community members served by the tribal colleges. These groups live and work on reservations and private lands in the middle Missouri River watershed, an area running from northern North Dakota to the Iowa-Nebraska border.

"Although there are increasing concerns on water pollution and management of natural resources in the watershed, few opportunities have existed for partnering to conduct research, teaching and extension projects," said Harold Crawford, the project co-leader and an ISU professor of agricultural education and studies.

"This project aims to build that capacity," Crawford said. "Faculty at the eight schools and others participating from the tribal communities will work together to reach mutually beneficial solutions and, at the same time, better understand each others' cultures."

Besides ISU, the three other land-grant universities are North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University and the University of Nebraska. The four tribal colleges are Fort Berthold Community College and Sitting Bull College, both in North Dakota; Sinte Gleska University in South Dakota; and Nebraska Indian Community College. The federal government granted land-grant status to these and 29 other tribal colleges nationwide in 1994.

A needs assessment has begun in each tribal community to determine program priorities in fish and wildlife, forest and woodlands, crop and range lands, and soil and water. The effort involves farmers, ranchers, tribal college faculty and students, professionals working in natural resources, and tribal leaders and elders.

Based on the priorities identified, the institutional partners will design and conduct research and extension projects, and disseminate the results.

"Our hope is that small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers will benefit through the adoption of environmentally friendly and economically viable management practices," said Gerald Miller, project co-director and associate dean for extension in ISU's College of Agriculture.

Another objective is to strengthen natural resource programs at the tribal colleges. It will involve course development, faculty improvement, collaborative projects and student internships. "The project will enable Native American students to prepare for careers on and off the reservation," said Miller. "We hope more students will be encouraged to complete four-year degrees in natural resources."

The ISU leaders say the project will be a model for building institutional partnerships to achieve educational goals. "For many students and faculty at the eight institutions, this will be a first opportunity to work together with peers at other land-grant schools," said Miller. "This kind of experience has been one of our goals in the College of Agriculture."

Contacts: 

Harold Crawford, Agricultural Education and Studies, (515) 294-7725

Gerald Miller, Agriculture Administration, (515) 294-4333

Mary de Baca, Agriculture Administration, (515) 294-8574

Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0706