USDA Forest Service Tribal Relations
The U.S. Forest Service established the first Tribal Government Program Manager position in the Washington Office in 1988, responding to identified needs and Executive direction. Subsequently, in 2004, the Office of Tribal Relations was formed as a permanent staff within the State and Private Forestry Deputy Area, to facilitate consistency and effectiveness in Forest Service program delivery to Tribal Nations, and to institutionalize long-term consultative and collaborative relationships with Tribal governments through new policy and direction. The current Office of Tribal Relations staff consists of six employees who serve as the Headquarters component of the Forest Service’s Tribal Relations Program. Field staffs comprise the other part of the program, and include the Regional Program Managers, Tribal Liaisons at the Forest level, and individuals in each of the Agency’s mission areas.
The Office of Tribal Relations:
- Provides oversight of Forest Service programs and policy that may affect Tribal Nations, encouraging and supporting respectful, supportive government-to-government relationships that strengthen external and internal coordination and communication about Tribal concerns and the Forest Service mission.
- Prepares and implements new and existing policy and direction outlining the legal requirements and opportunities within existing authorities relating to Tribal Nations.
- Clarifies the Agency’s responsibilities regarding Tribal trust and reserved rights.
- Develops and supports education and training for employees of the Forest Service and other agencies, helping them work more effectively with Tribal governments and other partners.
- Explores innovative ways to interact with Tribal Nations, Tribal Members, and others to enhance the Forest Service’s service to Native American communities.
Regional Tribal Relations Program Management
The Tribal Relations Program covers all of the Forest Service Deputy Areas, all across the country. This is reflected in the organizational structure of the nine Forest Service Regions. The Regional Tribal Relations Program Managers are located in different staff areas (some in the National Forest System and some in State and Private Forestry) and at different levels (some reporting to the Regional Foresters’ Office and some to Staff Officers). This brings a useful diversity of experience and perspective to the Program as a whole. The Regional Tribal Relations Program Managers comprise, along with the National Headquarters Office of Tribal Relations (OTR), the core of the Tribal Relations Program. These managers are often involved with OTR in affecting national level policies, programs, and projects. An extended team of Tribal Relations employees includes personnel at National Forests (at Supervisors’ Offices and at Ranger Districts) as well as Research Stations and Forest Service laboratories. Tribal Relations personnel facilitate work on research projects, forest and project planning, wildlife management, watershed restoration, cultural resource management, Tribal access and use, subsistence, biomass utilization, renewable energy, and many more topics and issues.