Rocky Mountain Region Tribal Relations

American Indians and Alaskan Natives have a unique legal and political relationship with the government of the United States. The context of this relationship is defined by history, treaties, statutes, executive orders, policies, court decisions, and the U.S. Constitution. Indigenous people live in every state in America, often near Forest Service administered lands. Building, maintaining and enhancing relationships between the Tribes and Forest Service personnel are critical for long term collaborative management goals across our public lands. 

Native American textile design, Rocky Mountain RegionAmong the 45 Tribes with interests in the Rocky Mountain Region, 21 are located within the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Regional boundary. The Regional Tribal Relations Program provides inter-regional consultation leadership for these and an additional 5 Indian tribes. The Tribes' ancient cultures, traditions, and knowledge help define the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region and also assist the agency in making effective land and resource management decisions that conserve the environment for generations to come. State and Federal 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.

This relationship exists to assist the United States Forest Service officials to:

  • Fulfill the unique relationship and obligation the United States Government has with federally recognized Indian tribes
  • Assist in the development and implementation of Forest Service interests in establishing a mutual and beneficial partnership with our American Indian neighbors
  • Provide opportunities for partnership building with tribes to facilitate economic development assistance through State & Private Programs

The goals of this relationship are to:

  • Maintain a working relationship with federally acknowledged tribal governments
  • Implement programs and activities honoring and fulfilling legally mandated trust responsibilities in National Forest System lands
  • Administer programs and activities to address and be sensitive to traditional Indian religious beliefs and practices
  • Provide research, transfer of technology and technical assistance to tribal governments

Three Primary Areas for Accomplishment:

  • Education / Training – Developing and presenting training on Forest Service responsibility in the federal and tribal relationship such as treaty workshops and in protocol/consultation with Tribal Governments.
  • Research – Assistance can be provided in researching tribal claims or positions; historical Indian claims or requests regarding National Forest lands; and to better understand current issues and policies.
  • Technical Support and Advise – Tribal Relations Program Managers can help Line and Staff Officers better understand current events and emerging issues; provide advice regarding official correspondence with tribes and political relationships between tribal governments; in drafting planning documents; and assist when creating Memorandums of Understanding or Memorandums of Agreement with tribes.

Tribal Relations Strategic Plan

The Forest Service Tribal Relations Program created a strategic plan to foster beneficial outcomes for the agency and for American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal governments and communities. The strategic plan identifies specific goals, objectives, and actions to guide the program through 2013 


Working Together: American Indian Tribes and the Forest Service improving Forest Service policy, programs and projects through consultation.