Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, Chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources, sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore highlighting the significance of Tribal stewardship over lands and waters that make up the National Forest System, and the need to continue collaborative participation from Tribal leadership and governments and the federal government. In their letter, the Senators request the development of a policy for Tribal co-management and stewardship of federal forests and grasslands.
“For generations, Tribal nations have managed the lands and waters that now comprise the National Forest System,” wrote the Senators. “These lands and waters are essential to their ways of life, and many Tribal governments exercise rights and interests on federal lands – to hunt, fish, and gather. Furthermore, how the federal government manages these lands can have a direct impact on traditional natural resources.”
The Senators highlight an increase in wildfires, noting how these events can start on forest lands managed by the Forest Service and then cross over on to Tribal lands, threatening both tribal communities and resources. In their letter, the Senators note how tribal governments across the country are pursuing opportunities to engage with the federal government to co-manage specific areas in order to either protect and enhance treaty resources, or exercise their off-reservation treaty rights.
“Developing co-management arrangements with Tribal nations is not only essential to fulfilling the Service’s trust and treaty obligations, but also is an opportunity to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge and practices into management. Tribal co-management can take many forms, which is why it is imperative that the Service have clear policies and procedures for honoring these requests,” their letter continues.
Full text of the letter can be found here.