Department of Natural Resources
The Red Lake Reservation is comprised of more than 840,000 acres of land and water across nine northern Minnesota counties. The reservation encompasses Lower Red Lake and a major portion of Upper Red Lake. Lower Red Lake is the largest Minnesota lake fully within its borders.
Red Lake retains the only contiguous, un-allotted reservation in the state, and the Tribe is one of only a few in the United States, which resisted allotment. The Tribe holds all land in common for the benefit of all of its members.
The land provides a means to hunt, fish and gather natural resources for harvesting purposes. Throughout the history of the Tribe, natural resources have factored into their survival and continue to provide a source of income through commercial fishing and also logging, among others. Both of these industries are important to the economic welfare of the Tribe and affect all members.
The natural resources also provide a touchstone to the longstanding heritage of tribal members. The traditional ways of life have been passed down to the younger generations, and through proper management, the resources will continue to be available for years to come.
Because of all these factors, the Department of Natural Resources was established in the 1980s and has expanded in the year's since. A number of base programs were established, including: forestry, fisheries, wildlife and environmental protection. In addition specialized programs were implemented, including: GIS, wetlands, air quality and fire prevention, among others.
In addition to the primary reservation location, the DNR is also responsible for the management of tracts of Tribally-owned land in adjacent counties, including the Northwest Angle — the northernmost portion of the state.
Al Pemberton serves as the director of the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources. There are five primary departments: Environmental, Forestry, Fisheries, Wildlife and Waters.
The mission of the Red Lake DNR Forestry program is to protect and enhance the forest resources of the Red Lake Reservation while providing forest management services and technical assistance to the members of the Tribe. When the self-governance agreement with the federal government became effective on January 1, 1997, the Red Lake Tribe assumed many federal functions, including direction and management of the Forestry department. Although the Tribe is currently managing its own forestry program under self-governance, the federal government is still obligated with the trust responsibility through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to insure that the Tribe’s forest resources are being managed in the Tribe’s best interest. The BIA also provides sources of funding, technical assistance and training.
The Environmental Program’s main responsibility is to ensure the Red Lake Nation is in compliance with federal environmental regulations. The program maintains a permanent staff of three who work closely with other DNR programs to ensure that tribal members and natural resources are well protected. Some of the Environmental Program’s goals and objectives include household and hazardous waste management improvement, protection of tribal groundwater and surface waters from contamination, underground storage tank compliance, safeguards from accidental chemical releases, and monitoring of ambient/outside air for particulate matter and other pollutants.
The Red Lake DNR wildlife program was established in 1997 and is responsible for managing wildlife and their associated habitats for the benefit and enjoyment of the members of the Red Lake Nation. This includes activities designed to help maintain the viability of wildlife populations, including threatened and endangered species, found on Red Lake’s vast land holdings. Similar to states, the Tribe has been able to apply for a number federal wildlife grants, providing more than $2.5 million to the Wildlife Program during the past 10 years. These funds have been used to conduct research and habitat enhancement projects, collect biological data on species important to Band members, support staff, and purchase equipment. Recent projects include: research on wolves, monitoring population levels of big game, fur bearers, grouse, and American woodcocks, research on local waterfowl production, establishment of wild rice stands and upland nesting habitat enhancement. Wildlife staff assist in the development of tribal wildlife harvest regulations and administer non-member hunting opportunities on tribal lands.
The Red Lake DNR Water Resources Program was established in 1989 to monitor Red Lake Nation’s streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater. The program has grown from one full-time biologist and technician to our current staff of six including biologists, technicians, graduate students, and seasonal student interns. The Waters Program is funded by grants administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).
The Water Resources Program monitors surface water quality of more than 240,000 acres of lakes, 466,000 acres of wetlands, and over 371 miles of rivers and streams. Current monitoring efforts include 78 small lakes, Upper and Lower Red Lake, 18 streams, and five flowing wells. By monitoring physical data, nutrients, bacteria, and biological data, we are ensuring the quality of the water and health of the lakes, streams, rivers, and wetlands on Tribal lands extending all the way up to the NW Angle.
The Fisheries program was started in 1987 and is responsible for the management and conservation of reservation fish stocks on 237,000 acres of Upper and Lower Red Lake, 135 smaller lakes, and approximately 371 miles of rivers and streams. The fisheries resource is diverse, ranging from smaller cold water trout lakes and largemouth bass-bluegill lakes, to the large walleye fishery of the Red Lakes. Staff includes a biologist and 3 full time technicians. The program has a fish hatchery for the hatching of walleye fry and a small demonstration re-circulating aquaculture unit which was used for rearing perch. In 2007, the program initiated the reintroduction of lake sturgeon to the Red Lakes and has cooperatively, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stocked over 75,000 lake sturgeon fingerlings as of October of 2014. We strive to balance sustainable utilization of the resource with adequate protection to preserve this resource for future generations.