News Release

Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s Department of Natural Resources Eric Quaempts selected as the 2023 ESA Regional Policy Award Winner

Grant and Award Announcement

Ecological Society of America

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present its 16th annual Regional Policy Award to the Director for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s (CTUIR) Department of Natural Resources Eric Quaempts on Sunday, Aug 6, 5:00pm EDT, during the ESA Conference Opening Plenary. The ESA annual award recognizes  the use of ecological science to inform regional policy decisions. This is the first time in the history of the ESA policy award that a Tribal member and Tribal governance employee has been recognized for integrating tribal ecological approaches.

Since 2007, Director Quaempts has implemented the First Foods management approach for the CTUIR. Previously, he spent eight years as a Wildlife Biologist in the CTUIR DNR’s Wildlife Program, and 8 years working for the Umatilla National Forest where his career included inter-disciplinary rotations in Forestry, Wildlife, Range, Reforestation, Fisheries and Fire Management Programs on the Walla Walla Ranger District.

“ESA is honored to recognize Director Quaempts,” said ESA President Sharon Collinge. “The ‘ESA for All Ecologists’ conference theme encompasses a wide range of perspectives on ecology, and Director Quaempts’ First Foods approach provides a clear and direct link between natural resource management, people and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. ”

His primary professional interest is in relating the culture of the CTUIR to the ecology of the Columbia Basin landscape, and in promoting understanding of the Tribe’s culture, natural resource restoration goals and Treaty Rights. To facilitate this, Director Quaempts draws on his personal, community and cultural experiences, and professional background.

“This is an exciting and humbling award. I very much appreciate the recognition from the Ecological Society of America and hope this presents an opportunity to further share Tribal perspectives on ecology and First Foods management,” said Quaempts. “I really think other managers with responsibilities for natural resources, native species, and environmental quality can adopt tribal ecological approaches to the benefit of the resources, Tribes, and society at large.”

Director Quaempts served on the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board as a member, was also its co-chair for five years, and currently serves on the Oregon Water Resources Commission. In 2011, the Potlatch Fund awarded him the Billy Frank Jr. Natural Resource Protection Award and in 2014 he was nominated for the prestigious EcoTrust Indigenous Leadership Award by the CTUIR’s Board-of-Trustees and was recognized by EcoTrust as an “Honoree.” Quaempts earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Wildlife Science from Oregon State University, and also completed graduate-level course work at Colorado State University in fire and land management as part of his professional development in the US Forest Service.

An enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, he has spent most of his life living on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and his professional career has been focused on working on the reservation and in the Ceded Lands of the CTUIR.

ESA President Collinge will present the 2023 ESA Regional Policy Award at the beginning of the meeting’s opening plenary Sunday, Aug. 6, at 5:00 PM. This plenary session is open to the public and will be held in the Oregon Convention Center, Portland.



The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the worlds largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 9,000 member Society publishes five journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at 

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