Adding a Seat at the Table
Monique Wynecoop is the ultimate multi-tasker. The CNR graduate student lives on a farm in northeastern Washington with her husband and children. She works full time for the U.S. Forest Service in the Colville National Forest as a Fire Ecologist. She commutes to school in Moscow from her home on a weekly basis. She received the prestigious International Association of Wildland Fire Scholarship in 2016 in recognition of her academic excellence and leadership abilities. Her graduate work is focused on ensuring that tribal and community interests are considered in decisions about natural resource management.
Monique has bachelor’s degrees in Ecology and Conservation Biology as well as Fishery Resources from UI, with a minor in Native American Studies. She is Native American, a descendent of the Pit River and Maidu tribes of northern California. Her husband and children are Spokane Tribal Members. Her graduate work is part of a monitoring program funded in the Colville National Forest in 2011 through the ten-year Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The Northeastern Washington Forest Vision 2020 (NEW Vision 2020) is a large-scale forest restoration project with the goal of increasing ecosystem resilience to wildfire, reducing fuel and restoring more fire-tolerant species of trees and vegetation.
The Colville National Forest CFLRP collaborative and monitoring committee decided to allocate 10% of the funding over the life of the project towards monitoring activities. The committee wanted aspects of the monitoring to focus on socio-economics, but early on the group was struggling with where to focus.
“I started thinking about my passion for working with the tribes, and how the CFLRP is intended to be collaborative,” Wynecoop said. “We have the Northeastern Washington Forestry Coalition (NEWFC), which is comprised of foresters and environmentalists, but we didn’t have any tribal representatives sitting at the CFLRP monitoring table. I was thinking about my passion for benefitting tribal people and how I was trying to make grad school work for my family and job while developing as a research scientist. It made a lot of sense for me to try to incorporate my master’s thesis into my role as fuels specialist on the monitoring committee.”
Wynecoop knew what her own family’s concerns were about management of ancestral tribal lands off of the reservation, but wasn’t sure how to bring key Confederated Colville Tribes (CCT) representatives to the table to address the tribe’s concerns. She knew that the monitoring question had to be something that would benefit the CCT and not just the Forest Service. She started talking with the CCT’s fire and historic preservation program managers to get ideas of the kind of issues that they would like to see addressed by the monitoring program. Her path forward became clear when she attended the Association of Fire Ecology Conference in Missoula, Montana in May of 2014. She met individuals at the conference who were using a Participatory Geographic Information Systems (PGIS) program called Map-Me (Mapping Meanings) to engage and gather feedback on natural resource use and conservation issues from Confederated Salish Kootenai tribal members on the Flathead Indian Reservation and the surrounding community members in western Montana. Wynecoop saw the opportunity to use this tool with the CCT and jumped on it.
She has since done interviews with CCT community members regarding forest service management of fuels and wildfire and their concerns and is using Map-Me as a tool to help the tribal community talk about sensitive values by geographic area. The software displays a GIS map of the area and participants can “spray paint” general areas of interest or concern while not giving away specific locations of sensitive or sacred areas. When the feedback is compiled, the result is a “heat map” of cultural and natural resource priorities. Colville Forest personnel can then compare these priorities to their list of upcoming restoration projects.
“We will be able to see if there is a lot of interest or new recommendations on how to treat an area where we are planning to do restoration,” Wynecoop said. “Collaboration is all about finding common ground and building better relationships. The intent of this project is to help initiate an open discussion with the tribal community about how their use of the forest is impacted by Forest Service resource management and to open the door to new ways of managing our forests that the Forest Service may have not considered before.”
“Monique is remarkable in fostering collaboration,” said Penny Morgan, professor in forest, rangeland and fire sciences and Wynecoop’s graduate advisor. “She is effectively integrating traditional knowledge and western science to create better environmental stewardship. Many scientists, managers and tribal members across the Pacific Northwest and beyond are interested in applying her approaches.”
CFLRP restoration projects have begun and there are opportunities to continue dialogue with the local tribes and incorporate their feedback into restoration projects. Wynecoop is hopeful about the future.
“I decided to continue my education as a way to develop as an ecologist and support my family. As part of the tribal community, I am always looking for ways to make a difference in this world for my children and family. For me that includes promoting Tribal use of Federal Lands and incorporating tribal values into what I do. The timing of my project has been great because tribal and non-tribal communities are looking for ways to be more involved in how their forests and watersheds are being managed. Collaboration in our communities and with the tribes can help show common ground and create a lot of healing; there has historically been conflict and anger over the way ancestral tribal lands have been managed. I want my work to help facilitate those conversations.”