Tribal Relations

Continually strengthening the government-to-government relationship with neighboring tribes is identified as a priority in the Bitterroot National Forest Program Priorities.  The Bitterroot Valley is the traditional homeland of the Bitterroot Salish band of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT).  All BNF lands are considered part of the usual and accustomed territory of the CSKT under Article 3 of the 1855 Hell Gate Treaty.  CSKT tribal members continue to exercise their treaty rights and regularly visit cultural sites on the Forest.  In addition to regular consultation with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Bitterroot National Forest also consults with the Nez Perce Tribe, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall, the Joseph Band of the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Nez Perce of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation on projects involving sites and issues of concern to those tribes. 

The Forest currently implements three levels of tribal consultation.  The first consists of direct mailings of scoping and NEPA documents to the CSKT Tribal Council, Tribal Preservation Office and Ttribal Natural Resources department, as well as to councils and/or cultural offices of the Nez Perce Tribe, the Shoshone-Bannock, the Joseph Band and the Umatilla Reservation Nez Perce. The second level of consultation involves direct communication by Forest line and staff officers in formal (government-to-government) and informal meetings, telephone calls and written correspondence. Meetings occur on an as-needed basis for issues such as management of culturally sensitive areas, forest plan revision, fire-killed timber salvage projects, land exchanges, trail and road projects, and cultural plant restoration.  The third level of consultation consists of direct contact (telephone calls, meetings and site visits) involving the Forest’s Heritage program manager/tribal relations coordinator and tribal governments and cultural officials.  This consultation takes place on a wide variety of subjects, including joint education or public outreach efforts, natural resource management, cultural site protection, and traditional plant conservation. Annual or biennial consultation meetings regarding the Forest’s annual program of work take place with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Nez Perce Tribe and (as needed) the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Ft. Hall. Forest/Tribal discussions also include meetings focused on specific issues, such as travel management planning, weeds management in wilderness areas, and Forest Plan revision.  These discussions occur at both the government-to-government (line officer/tribal council) and technical (specialist/cultural resource office) levels.

Potluck with the Elder's at Indian Trees CampgroundConfederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Preservation personnel frequently participate in field work on BNF projects of particular interest to the Tribes. As tribal schedules permit, the Forest hosts a spring potluck to bring together CSKT preservation staff, culture committee members, tribal elders and BNF personnel. This gathering enables tribal and Forest personnel to visit informally about issues of mutual interest, and provides tribal elders an opportunity to visit sites of tribal interest while asking questions of and sharing information with the Forest Service.  The event enhances the working relationship between both the Forest Service and the Tribes by allowing people to get to know one another on a personal level. 

Due to the distance between the Nez Perce Tribal headquarters at Lapwai, Idaho and the Bitterroot National Forest headquarters in Hamilton, Montana, less on-the-ground collaboration occurs between the Nez Perce Tribe and the Bitterroot Forest.  However, the Forest consults with the Nez Perce Tribal Preservation Officer on each year’s program of work, as well as on issues related to wildland fire use and suppression activities.  Areas of cultural concern to the Nez Perce include the Upper Selway River drainage, the Nez Perce Fork of the Bitterroot, and the Upper West Fork of the Bitterroot, as well as the Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) National Historic Trail which runs through the main Bitterroot Valley.  If a proposed project involves sensitive cultural sites or issues, the Nez Perce Tribal Preservation Officer refers the Forest to tribal cultural authorities or the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee for additional consultation.


Key Contacts


Elder at Potluck - Indian Trees Campground - Sula Ranger District

Tribal Elder at Dedication Ceremony - Indian Trees Campground