Operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, between 1966 and 2001 as the Mescalero National Fish Hatchery, its mission was to provide fish in support of 17 Tribal fisheries program in New Mexico and Arizona. Subsequent to devastating floods in 1999 and 2000, the Service determined to cease operations at the Fish Hatchery and returned the property to the Mescalero Tribe.
The Southwest Tribal Fisheries Commission was created in 2003, a coalition of tribes, pueblos, and Nations with a strong desire to promote self-determination through the development of sustainable recreational and native fisheries programs. The vision of the SWTFC is to provide technical skills and support needed to move individual tribal fisheries programs and projects from the conceptual phase to reality by, assisting tribes with creating and facilitating inter-governmental and non-governmental partnerships, providing advocacy needed to obtain funding and support, providing tangible services in the form of technical assistance and equipment. The first and most important task was to reopen the Mescalero Fish Hatchery
as a tribal operation, under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Since its re-opening in 2004, the Mescalero Tribal Fish Hatchery has provided over a million ten inch or larger trout in support of seventeen Tribal fisheries program in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. Fish from the Tribal Mescalero Fish Hatchery have been stocked as far away as Yuma, AZ (Quechan), Ignacio. CO (Southern Ute), and on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
In additions to providing rainbow trout for recreational fishing, several efforts have been made to propagate and reintroduce the native Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout. There are on-going efforts to reintroduce this native to the upper reaches of the Rio Ruidoso.
While the underlying purpose of rearing trout remains, the mission over the last ten years has evolved to become a training center for Tribal youth. Through the Sovereign Nations Service Corps, tribal youth primarily from Mescalero, but with membership from a dozen tribes, including Jupic Eskimo, Choctaw, Pueblo, and Navajo; have received service learning opportunities in cold water fish culture, stream restoration, trail construction and maintenance, and other natural resource management areas. Over the last decade, the Mescalero Fish Hatchery has provided a forum and support for Tribal youth to pursue higher education opportunities in natural resource management. Ms. Kim Yazzie (Navajo) completed an internship and was employed by the FWS. Ms. Alisha Antonio (Laguna) obtained her degree, and returned to work with the BIA on her reservation. Mr. Kai-T BlueSky (Cochiti) also obtained his degree in and is now a natural resource manager in his reservation. Ms. Shelley Belin, obtained her degree in Fisheries and is now the Mescalero Fish Hatchery Asst. Project
Leader; Mr. Wacey Cochise, recently obtained a B.S. degree in Biology from Highlands, and is currently employed as a Fisheries Technician; Mr. Nolan Garcia returned to work at the fish hatchery after obtaining a A.A. degree at Central New Mexico. Currently we have Ms. Tori Marden who will complete an A.A. degree at Eastern New Mexico State University – Ruidoso. Mr. Jarrod Kazhe, is currently a Pathways student with the US Forest Service, as well as working on an A.A. degree at ENMU-R.
The Mescalero Tribal Fish Hatchery will continue to provide trout in support of Tribal fisheries programs, however it is also a platform to engage Tribal youth towards a professional career, focusing on natural resources. Over the years, the Fisheries Department has developed strong effective relationships with the Southwest Tribal Fisheries Commission and several federal agencies that have been very instrumental in supporting natural resource careers for Tribal members that have the drive and commitment to pursue an advanced degree. More recently, we have developed a new partnership with the Mescalero Apache Schools and the Lincoln National Forest designed to begin to engage high school students in Indigenous Generation Green, a long-term effort to provide service learning experiences to prepare students interested in pursuing natural resource management careers.