CANCELED - The Path Back: Fort Peck Tribes' Community Buffalo Restoration Efforts

Wed, Apr 15, 12:00 pm
1-131 Wilson Hall
Speaker Name: 
Dennis Jorgensen & Dr. Elizabeth Bird
World Wildlife Fund; Montana State University
Northern Great Plains Program; College of Education
and Human Development


Join the Montana Institute on Ecosystems and the Grasslands Resilience Working Group at MSU for a special co-sponsored seminar featuring Dennis Jorgensen and Dr. Elizabeth Bird. 

Dennis Jorgensen has worked for World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the Northern Great Plains since 2007. Hired as the program's first field biologist he was based in the northern Montana prairies for 5 years where he gained valuable knowledge of the place, the people, and the wildlife. Before coming to WWF, Jorgensen worked for 7 years as an environmental consultant for the provincial government and the oil and gas industry in Alberta, Canada. In 2009 he completed his master’s thesis at the University of Calgary studying the migrations of prairie rattlesnakes in Alberta. He is WWF Bison & Tribal Team Lead in the Northern Great Plains, which supports the establishment of five herds of at least 1,000 bison on tribal lands and within National Parks by 2025 to ensure that tribal communities thrive with bison and the long-term health of the species is secure. In 2013 Jorgensen was appointed vice-chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) American Bison Specialist Group and is currently supporting long-term conservation planning for the species. He has published peer-reviewed research on the migrations of prairie rattlesnakes and long-billed curlews, and he has participated in research on the migrations and movements of mountain lions, pronghorn and mountain plovers. Among his unique opportunities while at WWF, his rattlesnake research was featured in the “Great Migrations” issue of National Geographic magazine and he was interviewed by Dan Rather in the production of a documentary on bison restoration in Montana.

Dr. Elizabeth Bird comes to her collaborations with the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux from a broad background in community-centered research begun in the 1990s in the arena of farmer-driven sustainable agriculture research.  She began the Fort Peck collaboration in 2011 under the MSU leadership of Dr. Elizabeth Rink.  They assisted Fort Peck Community College and other partners to develop and establish a new Fort Peck Tribes Institutional Review Board. Fort Peck advisors on that initiative brought forward the question of the community health impact of the Fort Peck buffalo repatriation effort.  This then gave rise to Dr. Bird’s work on the Fort Peck Buffalo Project.  In that context, she has collaborated in the creation of educational and outreach opportunities for the people of the reservation to better connect with their buffalo relatives. The collaboration has also entailed research.  In 2013 the team conducted focus groups and interviews with respondents across the reservation to help identify how the people think about the relationship of well-being and the buffalo.  In 2015 Dr. Bird collaborated with World Wildlife Fund (Dennis Jorgensen) and the Fort Peck Tribes on a population-wide survey of attitudes toward the buffalo, including hunting and use of buffalo meat and products, and attitudes toward the buffalo management program.  Additional interviews, led by Dr. Julia Haggerty, were conducted in 2015 aimed to understand the factors that led to the Tribes’ success in their buffalo restoration initiatives. Dr. Bird holds a BA in Environmental Studies and a Ph.D. in History of Consciousness from the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Her current position is Project Development and Grants Specialist with the MSU College of Education, Health and Human Development, a position which allows her to continue to foster and conduct collaborations with various Fort Peck partners.


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