Tribal Relations

Our Mission

The mission of the Southwestern Region Tribal Relations Program is to:

  • Provide Tribes equal opportunity and access to Forest Service programs.
  • Eliminate barriers to Tribal participation.
  • Improve overall knowledge of Tribe and Tribal cultures.
  • Develop partnerships and accomplish common goals in accordance with the Forest Service mission, the National Tribal implementation team report, and Regional priorities.

The Region consults and works directly with 43 sovereign Native American Tribes located in Arizona and New Mexico and an additional 9 tribes from surrounding states who have interest in our activities principally due to location of aboriginal lands. Tribes are engaged with the Southwestern Region in virtually every aspect of land management from fuels reduction to preservation of sacred sites. Their ancient cultures, traditions, and knowledge which help define the American Southwest also assist the agency in making effective land and resource management decisions that conserve the environment for generations to come.

National Forest Systems land in the Southwest shares 637 miles of common boundary with Tribal lands in Arizona and New Mexico or nearly one-third of all FS shared boundary with tribes (see map below).

The total land area of reservations and federal non-reservation trust lands in Arizona and New Mexico is an unprecedented 20 percent of the combined states land area.

Tribes in Arizona and New Mexico represent nearly 5 percent of the combined States' population; 5 times the presence of Native Americans within the total U.S. population.

For more detailed information, see our 2012 Annual Report.

Coincidence Boundaries Forest Service/Indian Lands

Common Boundaries FS/Indian Lands in Arizona and New Mexico.

(Click on image for larger view)
Coincidence Boundaries in Arizona - 524 miles
Coincidence Boundaries in New Mexico - 313 miles

Occupancy & Use of Forest Lands

Exclusive use of Forest Service lands by Tribe for traditional and cultural purposes.

FSM 1563.7 - Voluntary Closures. Forest Service units shall respond in a timely manner to tribal requests for voluntary closures of specific areas for tribal traditional cultural uses. When considering such requests, FS line officers should consult with appropriate tribal officials and traditional leaders regarding the need for appropriate signing, educational material, alternative locations, and scheduling. See FSH 1509.13 for guidelines on voluntary closures.

Legal guidance



Topic-Specific Policies