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CRITFC Exec. Director DeCoteau Appointed to National Park System Advisory Board

May 24, 2023

Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) has appointed Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission executive director Aja DeCoteau as one of 15 new members to the National Park System Advisory Board. DeCoteau is the first Native American to serve on this board in its 88-year history. In this role, Ms. DeCoteau will advise Secretary Haaland and the Director of the National Park Service, Chuck Sams (Cayuse/Walla Walla), on matters relating to the Service’s work.

DeCoteau is a citizen of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and has tribal lineage with the Cayuse, Nez Perce, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. She has over two decades of experience working on natural resource management and policy issues in the Columbia River basin. She earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Dartmouth College, and her master’s degree in environmental management from Yale University.

“Growing up in Indian Country on the lands of the Yakama Nation, I have always held a deep appreciation and sense of stewardship for our sacred waters and lands that provide our people with our first foods” said DeCoteau. “I am honored to accept this appointment to help advise Secretary Haaland, Director Sams, and the National Park System as we work to continue to provide all visitors of current and future generations the opportunity to take in and enjoy the natural beauty and wildlife of this country. ”

In addition to its advisory role, the Board also has a regulatory role in recommending new National Natural Landmarks and National Historic Landmarks and provides recommendations regarding the national historic significance of proposed National Historic Trails. In recognition of the importance of hearing from Tribal perspectives when making management decisions that impact public lands and waters, Secretary Haaland added a requirement that at least one member of the Board be from a federally recognized Tribe.

Bear Paw National Battlefield, part of the Nez Perce National Historical Park, is one of the 424 national park sites in the United States. They span across more than 84 million acres, with parks in each state and extending into the territories, including parks in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.

“National parks are some of the most visible and important forums for visitors to explore the outdoors and learn the complicated yet vital story of America,” said Secretary Haaland. “These new National Park System Advisory Board members represent experienced practitioners in cultural and natural resources management, as well as experts in relevant academic fields including environmental law, geography, and history. I look forward to their insights as we work to make our public lands accessible and inviting to all.”

“The challenges faced by the National Park Service reflect the challenges faced by our nation,” said NPS Director Chuck Sams. “Whether it’s an increasing demand for dwindling resources, the impacts of a changing climate, or the struggle to understand how our past influences today’s injustices, recommendations developed by the National Park System Advisory Board will help us strengthen our connection to the land and to our history.”

The terms of the appointed members are not to exceed four years.