Webinars | Stewarding Native Lands

Stewarding Native Lands Webinars

Scanning the Horizon: Opportunities for Environmental Justice and Stewardship in Indian Country

August 25, 2021

With the growing public attention on environmental issues (particularly social justice and climate change) as well as the emerging environmental initiatives under the Biden Administration, many Native communities are well positioned to benefit from new opportunities.

But what major environmental areas are getting serious support, and what key organizations are focused in these spaces? What opportunities lie on the horizon, and what funding sources are out there for this type of work? Where are there funding gaps, and how can philanthropy address them?

To research these questions, First Nations engaged experts as part of a broad scan of the tribal land stewardship and environmental justice landscape, with a focus on these topics:

  • Tribal Land Tenure
  • Environmental Justice
  • Tribal Conservation/Management
  • Climate Change
  • Traditional Ecological Knowledge & Cultural Practices

In this interactive webinar, these experts will share outcomes of their environmental scans, highlighting opportunities for partnership, collaboration, and funding for Native communities.


Mary Adelzadeh. Mary Adelzadeh has over 20 years of experience working with tribal and federal governments and non-governmental organizations in project management, grant-writing, land and natural resource planning and protection, and facilitating collaboration. She currently serves as a consultant to Native-led organizations and initiatives, which includes being a co-lead for the Intertribal Indigenous Stewardship Project focused on creating and strengthening Indigenous networks, strategies, models, and investment opportunities for Indigenous-led stewardship in California. Mary previously served as a senior program officer at First Nations and as a project advisor to the Maidu Summit Consortium and Conservancy, where she supported efforts to restore Maidu Traditional Ecological Knowledge and establish a Maidu Cultural Park in California. Previously, she worked to protect tribal natural and cultural resources as the environmental director of the North Fork Mono Rancheria, a tribe in the Southern Sierra Nevada, and as a liaison between the Bureau of Land Management Lake Havasu Field Office and nine tribes in western Arizona.

Mary serves as an advisory board member to the UC Santa Cruz Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program. Mary also recently served on the State of California’s topical advisory panel Protecting Biodiversity and Advancing 30×30. Mary holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology and Management from the University of California, Davis. Mary earned a Master of Science degree in Resource Policy and Behavior with a concentration in Conservation Biology from the University of Michigan.

John L. Phillips. John Phillips, Ph.D., is the executive director of First Americans Land Grant Consortium (FALCON), a non-profit association of tribal university 1994 land grant administrators, directors, faculty, and staff. He also is a director of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium land grant programs and policy. Dr. Phillips is the principal of John Phillips Consulting, which provides teaching, extension, and research services related to community development, with an emphasis on rural and Native American populations.

From 2000-2005, Dr. Phillips was the first 1994 Land Grant Institutions (Tribal Colleges and Universities) liaison with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. Phillips also provided executive resources to the USDA/AIHEC Leadership Group, a national advisory board comprised of top USDA and AIHEC officials.

Dr. Phillips directed the Cooperative Extension Program at Si Tanka College on the Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota, from 1997 to 1999, for which he was awarded a USDA Secretary’s Honors Award and a USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service Administrator’s Recognition.  During that time, he developed community outreach programs in nutrition, community gardening, and youth development. He also conducted USDA-sponsored research on diet and nutrition. In 2017, Dr. Phillips was inducted into the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hall of Fame.

Dr. Phillips earned his Ph.D. in Rural Sociology at the University of Missouri-Columbia, a M.S. degree in Environmental Systems from Humboldt State University, California, and a B.S. degree in Computer Science from California State University, Sacramento. He has worked as a systems engineer for IBM Corporation, and has served as a Peace Corps volunteer in southern Africa.

Brett Ramey. Brett Ramey (Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska) is a land-based educator and program designer working at the intersection of ecological, cultural, and community health. This has included designing courses on Indigenous foodways and climate change at a Tribal University, facilitating healing retreats for cancer survivors, and advising on national and tribal climate justice and conservation initiatives.

Prior to moving to Dakota homelands in Minneapolis in January 2019, Brett served as director for the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington, a national undergraduate student program that infuses conservation practice with Indigenous knowledges and perspectives of land and environmental justice. Brett currently serves on the Steering Committee for the Castanea Fellowship, a national program for established food movement leaders, and is leading a collaborative funding process through the Regenerative Agriculture Foundation to direct resources and attention to BIPOC-led initiatives. Brett is a Climate Resilience Planner for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.


Conservation Planning for Native American Ranchers

Conservation Planning for Native American Ranchers

August 5, 2021

This webinar is designed to help Native American ranchers develop conservation plans that will both address natural resource concerns, as well as increase opportunities to participate in USDA programs.

The webinar will highlight components of the recently updated Conservation Planning Guide that was developed by First Nations in 2016. Closely following the nine-step conservation planning process by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the guide supports Native American ranchers in developing conservation plans so that they can participate in USDA financial assistance programs provided by NRCS to improve the management of their natural resources. The planning guide includes basic range management principles to improve the health of grazing lands.

In the webinar, Steve Barker, a retired NRCS Rangeland Management Specialist, will review the conservation planning guide and how to use it.  Alfred Thomas and Melvin Cody, two Navajo ranchers, will discuss the development of their conservation plans and the USDA funding they received to implement them.


Steve Barker. Consultant Steve Barker, Resource Management Systems LLC, will provide an overview of the recently revised conservation planning guide developed for Native American ranchers. After 30 years of service, Mr. Barker retired from the position of Arizona State Resource Conservationist USDA-NRCS in 2012. He has extensive knowledge in the processes and requirements for range management and conservation planning on southwest rangelands and an understanding of the conservation planning issues faced by Native producers.

Alfred Thomas. Al is a fourth-generation rancher raised and currently ranching in Tolani Lake, Arizona, with a small cow/calf operation. Over the years, Al has transitioned from raising several types of cattle — Hereford, Beefmasters, Corrientes, Red Angus, and finally Black Angus. In 2012, Al received an NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) grant that allowed him to install 12 miles of an underground waterline system with five large water storage tanks with water troughs, along with three large stock ponds. Al currently serves as the president of the non-profit organization, Tolani Lake Livestock and Water Users Association, which owns and operates a 35-mile livestock summer watering system in cooperation with community ranchers, the Navajo Nation, the BIA and the USDA NRCS. Al also serves on the FSA county committee representing Navajo Ranchers in Coconino County, which comprises 18 Navajo Nation Chapters. Al is a certified Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) operator and a member of the American Grassfed Association.

Melvin Cody. Melvin Cody is a full-time rancher, operating as a cow/calf livestock producer on the southwestern portion of the Navajo Nation near Leupp, Arizona. Cody’s ranch operation was handed down to him, and he was taught as a young man the importance of land and livestock stewardship. After graduating from high school and serving in the military, Cody became a public servant in law enforcement until his retirement. As Cody took over the ranching operation from his parents, he attended and participated in numerous seminars, workshops, conferences, and training sessions on conservation and ranching and eventually attended a comprehensive conservation planning training program in Tolani Lake, Arizona. Cody soon developed a passion for conservation practices and subsequently developed his own rangeland conservation plan. Cody applied for and was awarded an EQIP contract in October 2019 through the USDA NRCS to construct and implement a comprehensive water development project on his rangeland.