Tribal Relations

Fulfilling our Trust Responsibilities and Treaty Obligations


The Eastern Region Tribal Relations Program provides advice, counsel, and training services to the Forest Service workforce to promote a culture of understanding that results in proactive, effective, and meaningful dialogue with Indian Tribes.  The program’s principle clients are the Forest Service line officers, decision-makers, and planners.  The program’s goal is to provide them with the appropriate context and knowledge to ensure trust responsibilities are recognized and fulfilled and that decisions respond to the current and future needs of Indian Tribes and tribal members.


Regional efforts are focused on 74 federally-recognized Tribes that have rights and interests in the management of NFS lands and programs within the 20 states of the Eastern Region.  Included are 20 “removed” Tribes located outside of the Region, primarily in Kansas and Oklahoma, whose ancestral lands are here in the Eastern Region.   The Eastern Region also maintains active relationships with numerous inter-tribal organizations, tribal colleges and universities, American Indian professional associations, and Indian urban centers.

The protection of treaty rights and the preservation of appropriate opportunities to exercise those rights on national forests within the Eastern Region are significant aspects of the Region’s Tribal Relations Program.  Twelve forests within the Eastern Region are components of lands ceded by Tribes through treaties with the United States.  Indian Tribes have asserted reserved treaty rights on more than 7.5 million acres (64%) of NFS land within the Eastern Region.


The Eastern Region demonstrates the highest standards for support of tribal sovereignty, recognition of indigenous values as shared values, protection of reserved rights and cultural properties, and consultation, collaboration, and partnership in landscape scale conservation.


  • To recognize and respect tribal sovereignty;
  • To recognize and fulfill our trust responsibility;
  • To respect traditional knowledge and tribal connection to the land;
  • To maintain a government-to-government relationship with federally-recognized Tribes; and
  • To facilitate effective consultation between Tribes and agency decision-makers.