October 2023 • The Magazine of the Evergreen Foundation
IFMAT IV: Progress in Indian Country Despite $100 Million Gap in Trust Funding!
On the cover: Klamath River canyon, Yurok Tribe, northern California.
Streamside protection, Passamaquoddy Tribe of Indian Township, Maine.
Cypress swamp, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.
Pg 2 Landscape forest management, Makah Tribe, western Washington.
In This Issue
n this issue, we explore the Fourth Assessment of Indian Forests
ment of the Interior would issue a joint statement in support of the enormous tribal contribution to natural resource stewardship in the United States. This: “We jointly acknowledge our support for tribal use of the authorities Congress has granted including – among others – Good Neighbor Authority, the Tribal Forest Protection Act and the Reserved Treaty Rights Lands funding program administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.” What better way to symbolically return lands to tribes that once owned them? What most Americans do not under- stand is that tribes live with the conse- quences of their actions and inactions ways that no other landowner does. Those who work for federal, state, and pri- vate landowners go home at night. Tribes are at home 24/7, day after day, year after year, generation after generation. This is why they place great value on connecting tribal elders with tribal youth. If knowledge isn’t passed down, it is lost forever. To understand the disastrous impli- cations of knowledge forever lost look no further than the enormous disconnect between the American public and its national forest legacy. This disconnect impacts all forest ownerships in America but it falls hardest on tribes from whom the amorphous public – and members of Congress – could learn a great deal if they listened more closely. Decadal IFMAT reports are federally mandated and funded by Congress. They are essentially progress reports detailing BIA and tribal relationships and programs, most of them underfunded for decades despite the fact they are integral parts of the federal government’s legally binding government-to-government relationship with every congressionally recognized tribe in the nation. These legally binding relationships are spelled out in great detail in several federal laws including the 1990 National Indian Forest Resources Management Act. The BIA holds Indian lands in trust rela- tionships rooted in treaties, executive orders, and other agreements signed more than 150 years ago. These relationships are changing and more change is coming. Larger tribes that own more for- estland have led the way via self-gover- nance, a transition made possible under one or more federal laws: The 1954 Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act [ISDEAA], the 1994 Tribal
American Foresters [SAF] annual conven- tion in Sacramento, California. The IFMAT IV Core Team will be centerstage along with several of its Technical Specialists, ITC Board members, and members of individual tribes’ staff. Given the fact that SAF has been working hard to reinvent itself, we expect its members will be very impressed with the knowledge and com- mitment tribes bring to the table.
and Forest Management in the United States prepared for the Intertribal Timber Council by a group of nationally recog- nized forest scientists, economists, and educators who come together every ten years as members of the Indian Forest Management Assessment Team: IFMAT Tribes own and manage more than 19.3 million acres of forest, much of it in the western United States. The Intertribal Timber Council [ITC], based in Portland, Oregon, that strives to bring awareness to the resource management interests of more than 300 Indian Tribes in the United States. Forty-one of these tribes are stewards of more than 10,000 acres. The remaining tribes own fewer acres. It has been Evergreen’s privilege to work with ITC members on these reports since 1993, the year IFMAT I was pub- lished. IFMAT II followed in 2003, IFMAT III in 2013 and now IFMAT IV is rolling out. This report has undergone a more professional review and analysis than the earlier reports. It is more thoughtfully written and more innovative in its ap- proach. It also reveals an impatience and urgency that is driving an ever-increas- ing number of tribes to assume partial or complete control of their own lands, actions that Congress has blessed in new laws and regulatory reforms. There have been many changes since IFMAT l was completed - 30 years ago. Tribes are now insisting on their rightful autonomy. They know they are the strongest advocates for their lands, communities, and future generations. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs [BIA] does what it can to help, but the agency is a very small fish in the halls of Congress, even though it operates under the aegis of the massive Department of the Interior. If there is an unwritten take home message in IFMAT IV - it is that the Inter- tribal Timber Council and its member tribes have implemented an extensive campaign that will identify the need for fundamental changes in the relationships between tribes and the BIA and federal government. The message: To recognize the feder- al government’s trust responsibility, and increased engagement between tribes and other federal agencies. The campaign began in August and will be highlighted at the Society of
Lake Superior shoreline, Grand Portage Band of Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
There is no way to know exactly what changes are coming, but we see the agency having the opportunity to be- come more like NASA, the Department of Defense or the Corps of Engineers. It will focus on the obvious – adequate fund- ing for tribes – and contract with other providers, including tribes and non-tribal consultants, for the services it needs to fulfill its congressionally mandated Trust responsibilities. It is not an exaggeration to say that tribes and their forests are unique entities bonded spiritually and culturally by An- cient Knowledge passed from generation to generation by tribal elders and driven far forward by remote sensing technolo- gies including Light Detection and Rang- ing [LIDAR] that allow tribes to inventory their resources at a level that includes trees, wildlife habitat, stream corridors, and soils as well as the impacts of wildfires. Although tribal natural resource management is gaining the respect of its federal partners, it would help solidify the tribal role at the nexus of co-manage- ment and joint resource stewardship if the USDA Forest Service and the Depart-
Self-Governance Act, the amendment to ISDEAA, which created an office of self-governance, or the 2016 Indian Trust Asset Reform Act [ITARA]. With these come varying degrees of BIA involvement. IFMAT IV includes an Executive Summary that raises most of the same concerns that were raised in IFMAT I in 1993. The nearby bar graph tells us that Congress has underfunded tribal forestry and fire management programs by close to $100 million dollars annually. The shortfall most heavily impacts staffing, planning, forest roads condition, and up- grades and equipment and technology. Underfunding comes at a time when billions of additional federal dollars are flowing to the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land management but not tribes. They are receiving about one-third as much on a per acre basis. This same gap appears in IFMAT I, II, and III. Why? Our sense is that Congress does not fully understand the increasingly signifi- cant role tribes are playing as models for all federal, state, and private forestland owners in the nation. Look no further than climate change and carbon storage markets to understand the implications. To its credit, Congress did ratify the 2004 Tribal Forest Protection Act, which gave tribes the authority to thin diseased, high-wildfire-risk federal forests adjacent to their land. Recognizing that there is no one law that fits all tribes, Congress also expanded the range of possibilities in the 2018 Farm Bill, granting the U.S. Forest Service the authority to execute “638” agreements with tribes. These agree- ments pave the way for tribes that seek
greater control over their own lands. So, again, our question: Why hasn’t the funding gap between tribes and fed- eral forest and rangeland management agencies been closed in 30 years? Tribes aren’t asking for special treatment. They are asking to be treated as equals in their government-to-government relation- ships with the U.S. Government - mean- ing parity with investments on other federal land ownerships. The IFMAT IV team included five Core Team members – four with PhD’s, and 12 technical specialists – seven with PhD’s. They completed 41 tribal site visits from coast to coast over a grueling two-year pe- riod filled with COVID-related challenges that necessitated many ZOOM meetings. Most Indian tribes do not own wood processing facilities and prefer to sell their logs on the open market, the notable exceptions being the Yakama in Washington State, the Menominee in Wisconsin, the White Mountain Apache in Arizona, and the Mescalero Apache in New Mexico. Other tribes have attempted to maintain viable, year-round wood pro- cessing facilities, but it is very challenging given staffing and funding shortages, the impact of the nation’s recession on the housing and commercial building industries and brutally competitive log and lumber markets. This situation is very unfortunate given the enormous opportunities new wood processing technologies have opened up in recent years. Cross laminat- ed timbers [CLT] and mass panel plywood [MPP]have taken the architectural and
construction markets by storm. In sum, tribal forests grow all of the wood species and tree sizes these technologies require. Since IFMAT I was completed in 1993, tribes have increasingly opted for emphasizing non-timber revenue gen- erating products of their forests: foods, clothing, medicines, fuel, shelter, musical instruments and other artistic endeavors, world-class resorts, golf courses, casinos, and ecotourism. But most tribes still practice tradition- al forestry and several are LEED certified [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design], but in all tribal forests there are body, mind and spirit components – and a sense of place and time – that simply does not exist on federal, state and private forestlands in our nation. This is the model that IFMAT IV4’s Core Team and Technical Specialists believe all forest landowners should follow because it yields major environmental benefits, including more biologically diverse forests that are able to naturally fend off insect and disease infestations that lead inevita- bly to killing wildfires. More than 20 years ago we said pub- licly that the time had come for the U.S. Government to officially return Indian lands (aboriginal and ancestral) to tribes because tribes do a much better job of managing their lands than the federal government does of managing that pub- lic’s forestlands. This continues to be our belief. Jim Petersen Founder and President The non-profit Evergreen Foundation
Page 4 Woodland restoration, San Carlos Apache Tribe, southeast Arizona.
Not Much has Changed
An essay by Jim Petersen
John Gordon is one of the most widely respected foresters in the world. He is Pinchot Professor Emeritus of For- estry and Environmental Studies and for- mer Dean, Yale University School for the Environment. He has been the guiding light behind all four IFMAT reports. Like- wise, John Sessions, his co-chair for IFMAT II, III and IV. Sessions is a Distinguished Professor of Forestry and Strachan Chair of Forest Operations at Oregon State University. As IFMAT IV co-chairs, Gordon and Sessions were two of the four PhDs se- lected to be members of a Core Team that guided the work of 12 Technical Specialists, seven with PhDs. Corrao was tasked with shepherding the entire program through two years of COVID shutdowns, numerous ZOOM calls, forty-one site visits and focus groups involving thirty-five tribes. ITC’s August 3 press release high- lights the underfunded programs and needs IFMAT IV identified. Here verbatim: • An annual increase of $96 million is needed to reach per-acre parity with National Forest and Bureau of Land Management funding. • Despite funding declining by almost 36% on Tribal lands, com- pared with other federal agencies over the last decade, Tribal Foresters continue to innovate using Indige- nous Knowledge and enhancing forest stewardship. • Annual timber harvests are only 50% of allowable levels, resulting in up to a $40 million lost opportunity in annual Tribal income. • Tribal economies are adversely affected by declining wood-process- ing infrastructure and market com- petition. • Significant investments are need- ed for transportation systems, facili- ties and enforcement. • Major forest stand improvement treatments are needed to improve climate change resiliency. • Need to reduce barriers to using prescribed fire to reduce catastrophic wildfire. John Session’s verbatim conclusion: “A lack of sustainable management is the most pressing forest health issue facing many Indian forests. Lack of funding is seriously jeopardizing responsible Tribal forest stewardship.” IFMAT IV’s take home messages appear on the back side of Gordon’s
“The continuing failure of the United States to meet its fiduciary trust responsibilities for stewardship of these renewable resources is placing Tribal forests in jeopardy with the risk of catastrophic loss from insects, disease and wildfire.”
Cody Desautel, President, Intertribal Timber Council, Portland, Oregon
incent Corrao’s assessment of progress and promise in what the nation’s Indian tribes call “forestry in Indian Country” is direct and brutal. “Not much has changed since the first IFMAT report was completed 30 years ago,” Corrao told me in a July 27 interview in his Northwest Management offices, just east of the University of Idaho cam- pus in Moscow. “Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs – an agency of the U.S. Depart- ment of the Interior – are responsible for ensuring adequate funding for the nation’s three hundred tribal forestry pro- grams. The current annual funding gap is about $100 million,” he added. Corrao was Program Manager for the Fourth Indian Forest Management Assessment Team [IFMAT] report. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of all four decadal IFMAT reports, beginning with IFMAT I, completed in 1993. He is one of the nation’s most respected, forward-thinking foresters. Several tribes use his leading-edge Light Detection and Ranging [LIDAR] system to inventory their resources at a level that includes trees, wildlife habitat, stream corridors, and soils as well as the impacts of wildfires. Lots of promises from Congress and little progress over the years since IFMAT I was completed,” Corrao said. “Underfund- ing remains a major problem for tribes. The federal government was not holding up its end of treaties that it made with tribes beginning in 1832. Corrao’s assessment is highlighted in an August 3 press release from the Intertribal Timber Council [ITC], a based in Portland, Oregon non-profit consortium of Indian tribes and Alaska Native Corpo- rations formed in 1976 that represents the resource management interests of more than three hundred Indian tribes in the United States. Collectively, they own and manage more than 19.3 million acres of forest, much of it in the western United States. Forty-one tribes are stewards of
IFMAT IV again highlights the potential for well-man- aged Indian forest to serve as models for sustainability for all American forests. John Gordon, Co-chair IFMAT I, II, III and IV more than 10,000 acres. The remaining tribes own fewer acres. The press release comes with its own Tweet: Healthy forests are critical to the cultural and economic well-being of not only Tribal communities across the country - but forests are also cen tral to all Americans’ quality of life. Tribal forests are part of the national network of forests that provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat, climate change solutions and rural jobs. In his masterful summation of the IMFAT IV Executive Summary, John Gor- don expanded on ITC’s Tweet. “IFMAT IV again highlights the po- tential for well-managed Indian forests to serve as models for sustainability for all American forests,” Gordon wrote. “Tradi- tional Ecological Knowledge when applied with modern science can result in integrat- ed forest management of the best kind since it blends ancient, proved concepts and practices with current technology.”
two-page summary in the form of Major Findings, Major Recommendations and Action Steps that should leave no doubt as to what Congress and the BIA need to do to reach funding parity with the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Underfunding and untapped poten- tial are major themes in all four IFMAT reports. The reports are formal in style, scope, and content because they are funded by Congress and include spe- cific tasks [A through H] that must be addressed and quantified. But Corrao summed up the 300-plus page report in a single sentence that is not included in IFMAT IV. “The Forest Service spends more on its wild horse control program than the entire BIA budget,” he said with some frustration in his voice. Corrao went on to explain that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is a small fish the halls of Congress, even though it operates under the aegis of the Department of the Interior. For comparison, know this: The annual BIA budget for tribal forestry and wildfire stands at $176 million, about 6.29 percent of the total BIA budget, which is about 3.1 percent of the entire Interior Department budget. Through various standing commit- tees, ITC member tribes work cooper- atively with the BIA, universities, and members of Congress; the goal being to identify practical strategies for advancing social, economic, and ecological values that benefit all forest landowners, not just tribes. The forest management vision is unique among the nation’s forest landowners. There is a stronger emphasis on holistic forestry and an increasing interest in the care and use of non-timber resources found in forests. Small wonder that Tribes function on vastly different wave lengths rooted in profoundly different land and community ethics than anything most Americans embrace. Here is a sampling from IFMAT IV’s focus groups: “We are genetically Native American, but to be a tribe, we have to regain harmo- ny with the land.” “The most important thing about the forest is the forest.” “You can’t put a price tag on the forest.” “There is nothing I don’t value in the “I have worked for several tribal forestry programs. None of them have been adequately funded or staffed.” “I only got a $2 raise from 1996 to 2022, but I am here to serve my tribe.” “We may not get the assistance we need from the federal government, but we Forest. I can’t go down a list.”
“The forest is on a different timescale
“Elk are a cultural keystone species and we are poorer for not having them.” “Restoration brings us back to our connectedness and our responsibility to the Earth.” “We know what we need to do. Now we need partnerships with the federal gov- ernment.” “How did our ancestors create the eco- systems that they lived in? The big yellow pine is a testament to our ancestors.” Tribal visions are driving an ardent desire for tribal self-governance and a less paternalistic relationship with the federal government. But limited federal funding for staffing, technology, and training needs cloud this vision. Tribal forest-related salaries are nowhere near par with the salaries paid to their counterparts in federal forest management agencies. The problem is most keenly felt in recruiting young professionals needed to advance tribal forestry visions. Because tribes are unable to offer competitive salaries, there are fewer people on staff to share an expanding workload. Underfunding is forcing tribes to make Hobson’s choices they should not have to make. The same 500,000-acre backlog in precommercial thinning cited in IFMAT III still exists. Forest density is increasing, and, with it, tribes are seeing an increase in insect and disease infestations and inevitable wildfire. Forest road conditions, grazing policies, limited law enforcement, leaky office roofs, computers that cannot run state-of-art software programs, trespass and poaching and destructive wild horses and burros remain major problems. Congress has most of the enabling legislation in place, but there is no startup funding and recurring funding allocations do not match inflation, adding to the frequently mentioned need to protect tribal forests and woodlands from insects and diseases that invade from adjacent federal forests. Given underfunding and increasing tribal interest in self-governance, the IFMAT IV report recommends that Interior Secretary, Deb Haaland, extend ITARA – the 2016 Indian Trust and Reform Act – indefinitely. It permits tribes to write their own forest management plans, further distancing themselves from BIA control.
Not much has changed since IFMAT I was completed 30 years ago. Vincent Corrao IFMAT IV Program Manger
will find a way to stay here because this is our home.” “Our forest is a working forest even with obstacles in the way it’s still working. It provides the community with traditional and cultural benefits.” “Management of timber is based off benefitting other resources.” “The plan took longer for it to get approved than when it actually lasted. Four- teen years to write, ten years operational.” “The BIA manual is always thrown in our face, but we are underfunded and cannot do everything that is listed in the BIA manuals.” “Our forest is well managed given what we have available for funding.” “I’m encouraged for us being able to manage our forests in our own way, by talking to our own people.” “The forest is part of who we are, and it is sacred. It is an extension of our body. It gives us prayers.” “No matter what we do we should be the managers.” “The land and people have experi- enced great change over the last 150 years versus the last 10,000 years.” “I don’t want to be the witness to see the last fish.” “When working in the forest an offer- ing needs to be given and we need to talk to it as a relative. Drought is nature’s way of reminding us to honor these things.”
A Shared Forest Vision
Tribes have a fervent desire to collab- orate with other landowners on a shared
tribes make everything from food and clothing to herbal medicines and jewelry. Among the goals is a shared desire to re- store tribal lifeways and cultural pathways that were being pushed aside by modern day social and economic pressures. Given tribal preferences for amore holistic approach to resource manage- ment, it is not surprising that the BIA’s long-used timber-based rule book is less relevant to tribes or that many living in Indian Country do not see the agency’s preference for reporting annual timber harvest volumes as a measure of success. Board feet cannot account for the value of non-timber products that are the essence of cultures that connect Indians to Mother Earth. David Wilson, Tim Vredenburg and Michael Dockry are among the twelve technical specialists that worked with the four-member IFMAT IV Core Team to complete eleven congressionally mandat- ed assignments. Among them: funding, staffing, salary with federal resource man- agement agencies, trust responsibility, tribal forest health and climate risk. The reports cover 148 pages in IFMAT IV. Technical specialists
forest management vision that benefits all the partners. The map on Page 12–13 illustrates the importance of this idea by pinpoint- ing the location of every tribal forest ownership in the nation. All of them are within two hours of every state, private or federal ownership. There are reciprocal environmental benefits and cost cutting efficiencies to be gained in developing management plans that complement one another. Many landowners now use software programs that compute har- vesting and log hauling costs based on tree species, market prices and miles to mills that transform logs into a stunning variety of products. Everything ranging from wood pulp to dimension lumber, veneer, plywood, oriented strand board, laminated veneer lumber, cross-laminat- ed timbers, and mass panel plywood. Still, many tribes are choosing to emphasize more traditional non-timber forest products made from various parts of trees: bark, sap, leaves, needles, seeds, moss, nuts, and roots; also berries, fruits and fungi, products gathered by commu- nity members in much the same way as they were eons ago. From these traditional products,
Because their career tracks differ, Wil- son, Vredenburg and Dockry each bring a distinct perspective to their assessments of the report. David Wilson held several positions in the Forest Service’s Washington Office before retiring in 2022. He also worked in Indian forestry for 29 years, 12 years with the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and 17 years as a senior inventory special- ist with the BIA. He also worked on the IFMAT III report. “There has been some progress over the years, and I know the passion felt in Indian Country is understood by many in the BIA, but I wonder if we aren’t doing the same things over and over again, hoping for a different outcome that hasn’t materialized. The trend data from IFMAT I through IV suggests this is true.” Wilson is correct. Not much has changed in 30 years. Tribes have made great strides on their own, but they continue to do more with less, which is the main reason so many tribal mem- bers voiced frustration with the federal government in IFMAT IV’s 35 focus group sessions. “I think IFMAT IV did a deeper dive into Indian Country than earlier assess-
Annual Federal Funding to Tribes for Forestry and Fire
The fact that tribes do everything they do in their forests for one-third the per acre money that the Forest Service gets tells you something isn’t right.” The Cow Creek Band does not own a mill – unless you count the two portable sawmills, they purchased to do some sal- vage logging following the 2019 Milepost 97 Fire, a 13,000-acre lightning-caused fire on Forest Service land that had not been salvage logged following a 1987 fire. “We were able to sell some of our burnt timber following the Milepost fire to local sawmills, but the BIA’s sale prep process took too long. Insects invaded before we could sell all of it,”Vredenburg said. “So, we bought a two-man portable mill to see if we could cut some lumber from the burnt logs no one could process.” Portable sawing is slow going – so slow that Vredenburg calculated that it would take 45 years to finish every acre, so the tribe bought a larger portable to see what more they could salvage. “Over the last four years, we have worked our way through all of it and we have planted 1.5 million seedlings,” he reported. “Someday, it will be beautiful again. It’s all about vision, shared respon- sibility and follow through.” Mike Dockry shares the frustrations voiced by his fellow IFMAT IV colleagues,
after the Cow Creek Band signed a treaty with the federal government in 1854, ceding 512,000 acres of land for 2.3 cents per acre, the government sold the land to settlers for $1.25 per acre, then ignored their government-to-government trust with the tribe for nearly 100 years. Despite his considerable expertise, Vredenburg found himself in awe of what he saw in Indian Country during IFMAT IV site visits that took him from coast to coast. “It was a fascinating and amazing experience,” he said. “The depth and breadth of forestry tribes are practicing is a world apart from what we do in Doug- las-fir here in Southwest Oregon. For me, the lasting lesson is that after tribal leadership sets its vision, the responsibil- ity for implementing the vision is shared by everyone. The timber guy is responsi- ble for clean, cold water for fish and the fisheries guy is responsible for the timber growth and health.” Vredenburg confirmed the shift from a singular timber focus to a broader and more holistic approach that includes tra- ditional, non-timber resources that grow in the same forest. “It’s the outcome most tribes want now,” he explained. “It’s a great model and certainly one that Congress should seriously consider for national forests.
ments, but the big question is what can tribes and the Intertribal Timber Council do to raise awareness and support in Congress and relevant federal agencies?” Wilson believes IFMAT IV does a respectable job of peeling back “the timber part” of the tribal story but he thinks tribes may want to focus more on the BIA’s Office of Trust Responsibility, a necessity expressed throughout the IFMAT IV report. Tim Vredenburg is Director of Forest Management for the Cow Creek Band based at Roseburg, Oregon, a position he has held for 12 years. He is the only IFMAT IV Technical Specialist who works directly for a tribe. Vredenburg is an expert in tribal Self-governance and Self-determination, which goes a long way toward explaining how the Cow Creek Band secured one of the first two ITARA demonstration proj- ects and sold the first ITARA timber sale in the country using tribally developed rules, not the BIA’s rule book. “I can’t overemphasize its signifi- cance or impact,”Vredenburg said. “It’s an enormous accomplishment for a tribe that Congress did not formally recognize until December 1982 and we did not gain permanent status until 2018.” The story is too long to tell here but
8 Evergreen Collapsed stringer bridge, Chugach Alaska Native Corporation, southcentral Alaska.
of accounting for all the tangible and intangible parts of tribally owned forests and grasslands. Everything.” Public concern – and impatience – with the wildfire calamity that has engulfed federal lands across much of the West has grown significantly in recent years, so Dockry and those who share his point of view are correct in predicting widespread public support for tribal forestry’s many assets. “There are two take home messages in IFMAT IV,” Dockry said. “One is the increasing tribal emphasis on managing for non-timber values. That’s huge. The other is that the values tribes ascribe to need to be fully funded. What is not well under- stood is that equitable funding is not just a tribal issue. It’s an issue for every landowner that lives adjacent to federal land that is not being protected.” “When insects, diseases and wildfire jump from federal land to state or private and it becomes everyone’s problem,” Dockry continued. “In the reverse, when federal land is as professionally managed as tribal lands, everyone benefits.” Although their assessments vary with their expertise, every- one we interviewed for this re- port said much the same thing. Everyone also said that the federal focus on project funding – as opposed to programmatic funding – is the reason tribes lack the staffing needed to do more of the cross-boundary work Congress envisions. “Fund tribes the same per- acre basis as the Forest Service and the wildfire crisis we see on federal land will begin to subside,” Dockry said. “Wildfire will give way to prescribed burns that are safely set to reduce the on-the-ground fuel loads that feed big fires. I know it is coun- terintuitive, but it works. Tribes have been doing it for hundreds if not thousands of years.”
specifically the urgent need for Congress to erase the increas- ingly serious lack of adequate funding. “Every funding deficiency identified in IFMAT IV exposes a problem that has persisted since IFMAT I was completed 30 years ago.,” Dockry said. “Tribes are doing more with less. Congress needs to erase the underfunded budgets that IV identifies. These are trust responsibilities.” Although Dockry was new to IFMAT, he was one of twelve technical specialists selected to work with the four-member core team. He brought two significant assets to his assignments: He is a member of Citizen Potawatomi Nation and he holds a PhD in forestry from the University of Wisconsin. Dockry is an Assistant Pro- fessor of Tribal Natural Resource Management in the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. His interdis- ciplinary research and teaching focus on blending Indigenous knowledge and tribal perspec- tives into forestry and natural resource management. He incor- porates previous IFMAT reports into his classroom lectures. Federal natural resource managers responsible for the nation’s forests and grasslands could learn a great deal from Dockry about the cultural and holistic underpinnings of the trib- al resource management model. “The model is not as useful for private owners that are exclu- sively in the timber growing busi- ness, but the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are not in the timber business either, certainly not as they were for forty-some years following World War II. “ But the transition would not be without controversy since the tribal forestry model would require thinning in overstocked forests, actions widely opposed by special interest groups that favor preservation, no matter the environmental cost. “It is my opinion that if the public could see tribal forestry in action, they would become huge supporters,” Dockry said. “The holistic nature of the model means that it does a beautiful job
Page 9 Thinned forest, Spokane Tribe of Indians, eastern Washington.
Federal Trust Resposibilty and Indian Forest Mangement Editor’s note: George Smith is President, Pacific Management Associates, a natural resources consulting business in North Bend, Oregon. He is a Society of American Foresters Certified Forester with more
its trust obligations and carrying out forest management activities in the best interest of the Tribes (beneficiaries of the trust). Key issues were the lack of funding to fully implement forest practices and achieve management goals agreed to by the Secretary and Tribes in approved FMPs and a misalignment concerning the BIA’s strong focus on timber production rather than a broader forest stewardship approach in managing Indian forests. 2 While expressing increasing interest and concerns relating to management of their forests, Tribes were also building internal capacity to manage their forest lands under Tribal control and adminis- tration. This was in response to growing desire of Tribal leadership to end federal domination and paternalism in carrying out federal programs for delivery of ser- vices and allow the Tribes themselves to design and directly administer programs in manner which best serve the needs of their Tribal members. The authority for Tribes to transition from BIA control and administration to di- rect Tribal operations in management of trust forest lands is provided in the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act and its amendments, 3 and more recently in the 2016 Indian Trust Asset Reform Act. 4 In the 2023 IFMAT IV review, forestry program in- formation was collected from 41 Tribes nationwide including Alaska. In exam- ining Tribal governance structure, it was found that 77% of the forestry programs were being performed directly by Tribes under P.L. 93-638 program contracts or compacts. In addition, two Tribes carry out forest management activities under Tribal law and regulations as provided for in Indian Trust Asset Management Plans (ITAMPs) authorized by ITARA. 5 This increasing trend of a reduc- tion in BIA control and administration of reservation forestry programs to direct management by Tribes under the Indian Self-determination Act and ITARA authorities changes the long-standing, conventional process of carrying out the federal trust responsibility. Numerous functions performed in the management of Indian forest lands have historically been identified as residual, non-contrac- table activities to be performed by a BIA designated official. Commonly referred to as the inherent federal function. The BIA uses compliance with federal forestry regulations interpreted and im- plemented through manuals and hand-
than 55 years of Native American forestry experience. He held several high-ranking positions in the Bureau of Indian Affairs before retiring. After retiring, he served 10 years as Executive Director of the Coquille Indian Tribe. Smith worked with IFMAT IV co-chair, John Sessions, on a cross-refer- enced summary of findings from all four IFMAT reports. By George Smith
wo important concepts guided the Nation’s early Indian policy. The first
was the use of the treaty, which demon- strated that Western nations viewed Tribes as distinct, separate, but not always equal, entities. When an Indian Tribe entered into a treaty with the United States, a trust rela- tion was created. The Tribe ceded land to the Federal Government and, in return, the United States made promises to protect Tribal lands from non-Indian encroach- ment and to provide services to Tribes. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall confirmed the legal rights of In- dians to their land in his ruling in the case of Cherokee Nation v. Georgia in 1831, when he described the status of Indian Tribes as “domestic dependent nations.” This separate nation status provided Tribes with their own right of ownership of natural resources. This case also an- nounced and confirmed the United States’ trust relationship to Tribes, that was based on the concept of guardian to ward. The second important concept was the development of the Federal trust responsibility to provide support to emerging Indian communities. Obviously, there is no one definition of trust respon- sibility that can be applied to all Indian Tribes unilaterally. The Government’s obligations to federally recognized Indian Tribes depends upon treaties, statutes, court decisions, and executive orders affecting those Tribes. A part of this trust responsibility involves the protection and management of Tribal forests. 1 The context of the federal trust responsibility and the trust obligations of the United States relating to Indian forest management are set forth in the National Indian Forest Resources Management Act (NIFRMA P.L. 101-630) and its implement- ing regulations (25 CFR § 163). While the
Part of this trust responsi- bility involves protection and management of tribal forests. George Smith
trust responsibility is a government-wide mandate applicable to all federal agencies, the Secretary of the Interior is designated in NIFRMA as the principal trustee for fulfilling trust obligations in the management of Indian forests. In 1910, a forestry division was creat- ed within the Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of Indian Affairs. From that time until the mid-1970’s, Indian forest management activities were carried out as direct operations of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Standards and guidance for performance of the trust responsibility were largely described in BIA manuals and handbooks developed as the agency’s interpretation of compliance with require- ments of the federal forestry regulations. Although not specifically identi- fied as such, trust standards were also contained in Forest Management Plans developed and approved by Tribes and the BIA. As Indian forest management advanced, Tribal leadership expressed an increasing interest in how their forests were being managed. In some instances, there was concern as to whether the federal government was fully meeting
is a need to have professional forestry personnel as part of the evaluation team and include a determination of the extent to which the trust functions performed achieve the Tribes’ vision for their forests. Also, the evaluations need to recognize and be consistent with the principles of self-governance. The validity and poten- tial value provided by the evaluations could be enhanced by including inde- pendent third-party representation with expertise and experience in Indian forest management. A significant finding of the four IFMAT reports over three decades is the under- funding of Indian forestry programs. This, without question, is a major failure of the federal government to fulfill is trust re- sponsibility to forest owning Tribes. Lack of funding precludes full implementation of Forest Management Plans approved by Tribes and the Secretary. The Forest Management Plans are the principal documents identifying for- estry functions and services to be accom- plished in fulfillment of the trust respon- sibility and achievement of the Tribe’s vision for their forests. The most recent IFMAT report affirmed past findings that Indian forests continue to receive only a fraction of the funding provided to public and private forests. An annual increase of $96 million is needed to reach per-acre parity with National Forest and Bureau of Land Management funding. At the core of the federal trust re-
books as the standard for fulfilling trust responsibility, and the approval of doc- uments and actions as a validation that trust responsibility is being met. Self-de- termination contract and self-governance compact Tribes are not required to follow BIA policies, manuals and handbooks. ITARA Tribes replace federal regulations with Tribal forestry regulations. With the exception of Forest Management Plans (FMPs) and Forest Management Deduc- tion (FMD) Expenditure Plans, ITARA Tribes operating under Tribal law and regulations approve all forest manage- ment documents and actions previously viewed as inherent federal functions of the BIA (trust responsibility). The impacts of Tribal self-determi- nation and self-governance indicate the need for a different approach to evaluate the performance of the Federal govern- ment in meeting its trust obligations. A consistent recommendation of prior IFMAT reports has been to create an independent trust oversight body, such as a permanent commission independent of both the BIA and Secretary, to evaluate the overall federal government’s fulfil- ment of its trust duties to Indian Tribes. However, this recommendation has never been implemented. Possible alternatives would be to modify the existing trust evaluation processes for self-governance compacts and ITAMPs. To improve the effectiveness of these evaluations for forestry programs, there
sponsibility is the protection of the trust forest asset from loss and the carrying out of responsible forest stewardship. Lack of funding is seriously jeopardizing respon- sible Tribal forest stewardship. 6 The con- tinuing failure of the United States to meet its fiduciary trust responsibilities for stewardship of these renewable resources is placing Tribal forests in jeopardy with the risk of catastrophic loss from insects, disease, and wildfire. 7 The Federal government’s trust rela- tionship with Tribes has proven to be dy- namic and ongoing, evolving over time. 8 Congressional actions providing author- ity for Tribes to take control of federal programs and end federal domination over delivery of services have consistently included language confirming the trust responsibility. The Indian Self-Determina- tion and Education Assistance Act states: that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing or requiring the termination of any existing trust responsibility of the Unit- ed States with respect to Indian people” and the Indian Trust Asset Reform Act states: “ Nothing in this title enhances, diminishes, or otherwise affects the trust responsibility of the United States to Indian Tribes or individu- al Indians”. While reform and modernization may occur, there is strong indication that Congress intends that the federal trust re- sponsibility remain a permanent doctrine defining the relationship between Indian Tribes and the United States.
1. A Forest in Trust: Three-Quarters of a Century of Indian Forestry – USDOI, BIA, July 30, 1986. 2. IFMAT Reports – I-1993, II-2003, III-2013 and IV-2023. 3. Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (P.L. 93-638 – 1975 and amendments) 4. Indian Trust Asset Reform Act (P.L. 114-178 – 2016). 5. IFMAT IV Report, 2023. 6. John Sessions, IFMAT co-chair and Distinguished Professor of Forestry at Oregon State University. PRNewswire, Aug. 3, 2023. 7. Cody Desautel, President of the Intertribal Timber Council. PRNewswire, Aug. 3, 2023. 8. Indian Tribes as Sovereign Governments. AILTP, 1991.
Wildfire, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, central Washington
The Land is Their Home
Cody Desautel is President of the Intertribal Timber Council Executive Board. He is a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
through treaty, executive order, or other legislation, Tribes are still dependent on the present-day landowners to ensure resources are accessible and protected on the landscape. So how does the approach of Tribal resource managers differ from what you commonly see on federal, state, and pri- vate forest land? To answer that question we will look at several aspects and exam- ples that demonstrate the differences, and in some cases, the similarities. As noted as a major finding in the IF- MAT report “there is a unique Tribal vision of forest management including a focus on stewardship and non-timber forest products.” The Tribal view of stewardship and non-timber forest products is differ- ent than most non-tribal communities. For Tribes stewardship is an obligation and responsibility to do our part in main- taining a healthy, resilient landscape for all things. Almost all, if not all, Tribal cultures understand and prioritize the protection of sacred resources, such as water, air, foods, medicines, and other resources that Tribes use for subsistence. Because of this, Tribes and tribal members working for their tribe exhibit a commitment that goes far beyond their job duties. That duty is expected of them from their family, their ancestors, and the generations yet to come after them. Tribal people understand that responsibility more so than any land management agency, and because of that, tribal programs across the country accomplish amazing things with very limited funding and staffing. In addition to the commitment tribal members and tribal employees have, they also regularly hear from tribal leaders and elders what is important and why. This gives them a sense of direction and priority guided by traditional knowledge and tribal perspec- tives not seen outside Indian country. However, this is a model that likely is not sustainable into the future. Due to the extra demands, tribal staff are forced to choose between a healthy work life balance, and the unwavering commit- ment to tribal resources. This is particu- larly difficult in rural tribal communities, where expectations for resource pro- tection are high and many of the critics are the same family tribal employees are sacrificing time with. These expectations make it challenging to retain and recruit the next cohort of resource managers for Indian country.
o understand the Tribal approach to resource management it is im-
portant to have some context about trib- al cultures and values. It is also important to understand that each of the 574 federally recognized tribal governments are sovereign and set their own man- agement goals and objectives based on their unique culture, history, and beliefs. For this reason you will find a variety of management approaches across Indian country. This variety of management approaches and ingenuity are partly what make tribal approaches to management unique. The other unique aspect is the con- nection tribal people have to the land. Their management approach is driven by a cultural obligation and dedication not typically seen outside tribal manage- ment. The land is their home. It provides all the places and resources that define their tribal identity and culture as Indian people. For that reason tribal employees approach natural resource management with the dedication and passion some- one outside Indian country would apply to their home, church, or places they hold dearest to their hearts. In addition to the unique approach Tribes take to resource management, they also have a number of challenges that are unique to Indian country. First, the 19.3 million acres of forests and woodlands noted in the IFMAT report are technically owned by the United States government and held in trust for the benefit of the tribal landowners. Those owners include Tribal governments, and individual Tribal landowners commonly referred to as “allotees.” Because of this federal ownership, the Tribes are subject to handbooks, manuals, and processes imposed by the federal government, which they deem necessary to meet their “trust” respon- sibility to the Tribes. Those handbooks, manuals, and processes are largely based on a western approach to resource management, and do not account for the diversity of priorities and ecosystems that Tribes exist in across the country. While progress has been made to reduce the federal influence on management of
More work is needed as we evolve the definition of Tribal souveignty amd self-determi- nation. Cody Desautel
Tribal lands, more work is needed as we evolve the definitions of trust responsibil- ity, Tribal sovereignty, and Indian self-de- termination. Second, as the trustee the federal government has a trust responsibility to fund the management of Tribal forests. However, as noted in the current and previous IFMAT reports, Congress and subsequently the federal agencies deter- mine what appropriations are available to accomplish this. A relationship that was characterized as the federal government “being both the pitcher and the umpire” in previous reports. To address shortfalls Tribes look to alternative funding sources and Tribal appropriations to accomplish their management goals. Third, for all Tribes their present-day reservations are a fraction of their historic territories. In some cases they were completely removed from their traditional homelands. As such, many of the culturally important places and subsistence resources that are important to Tribal people now exist on land owned and managed by someone other than the Tribe. While the right to access and utilize those resources may be protected
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