Co-Management with Tribes: A Roundup of Info Attempting to Clarify

We read in news stories about co-stewardship (I think everyone at Interior and USDA is working on this) and co-management.

Co-stewardship is explained in this Joint Secretarial Order. It seems to be about sharing information and knowledge and working on stuff together.

The definition of co-management seems hard to get at, possibly because different reporters use the term differently. This seems relatively clear from  this High Country News piece:

The distinction between co-management and co-stewardship — terms the federal government uses for agreements to collaborate on land management with tribal nations — is subtle but important. “Co-stewardship” covers a broad range of collaborative activities like forest-thinning work in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest in partnership with the Hoonah Indian Association, where Indigenous knowledge can be included in federal management. But “co-management” is more narrowly defined. In those instances, tribal and federal governments share the power of legal authority in decision-making of a place or a species. This is the case with Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico, which is co-managed by the Pueblo de Cochiti and the Bureau of Land Management, and with the salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

In this story, also in HCN, they talk about Bears’ Ears and the new Arizona Monument as being co-managed:

The designation creates a commission for tribal nations with ancestral ties to the area — in this case 13 distinct tribal nations — to manage the lands within the monument alongside the federal government, similar to the commission established for Bears Ears.

As we previously discussed on TSW, though, establishing an advisory commission does not necessarily lead to sharing decision-making authority with the group.  The Black Hills National Forest, for example, has a FACA committee but the committee does not “co-manage.” The current Admin always holds all the legal cards in any decision and in any litigation, to defend or not or settle.

There is a fascinating legal paper by Monte Mills worth taking a look at if you are interested. The below is from pages 145 and 146.

As for delegation of authority, Obama’s Proclamation differs from the proposal submitted to the him by the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition.
The Coalition carefully dissected the issue of what constitutes a lawful delegation of authority to tribes and premised its proposal on the basis that a delegation of authority is permissible insofar as it is not total, and remains subject to the final decision-making authority of the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior.417 Instead of delegating complete authority, “the Tribes and agency officials will be working together as equals to make joint decisions.”418
Though a modification of the Coalition’s proposal, Obama’s Proclamation establishes a substantive framework for collaborative
management of the Monument:
The Secretaries shall meaningfully engage the Commission or, should the Commission no longer exist, the tribal governments through some other entity composed of elected tribal government officers (comparable entity), in the development of the management plan and to inform subsequent management of the monument. To that end, in developing or revising the management plan, the Secretaries shall carefully and fully consider integrating the traditional and historical knowledge and special expertise of the Commission or comparable entity. If the Secretaries decide not to incorporate specific recommendations submitted to them in writing by the Commission or comparable entity, they will provide the Commission or comparable entity with a written explanation of their reasoning.419

This sounds a bit like a “response to comments”, but OK. Bottom line- does co-management mean that feds and Tribes are peers in decision-making- any decision needs to be agreed upon by both parties?  Or are Tribes “the most important stakeholders to listen to.” I’m sure these would be functions of specific legal authorities.  Either way, is there a reason not to co-manage everything if the legal aspects could be worked out?

Finally, from the second HCN article:

While many see co-management as a step toward land return, environmental historian and ethnobotanist Rosalyn LaPier, who is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe, and Métis, has pushed back against that idea. In an interview with High Country News last week, LaPier said that the federal government should be ready to return public land to tribes who want it now, without requiring co-management as a first step. “The federal government doesn’t want to let go of their say over public lands and allow Indigenous people to take leadership. And we’re fully prepared to take leadership,” LaPier said. Pointing to intensifying wildfires in the Western U.S., which are due in part to a century of fire suppression, she added, “Why would Native nations want to co-manage with the United States, when the United States government has shown over and over again how they mismanaged public lands?”

I wonder if there’s a list of the Tribes who want land return ASAP.

11 thoughts on “Co-Management with Tribes: A Roundup of Info Attempting to Clarify”

  1. I am in 100% agreement with Rosalyn LaPier’s statement. The US government has demonstrated — and documented — over the past 40 years that it is among the worst forest managers in US history: and particularly if measured in forests and wildlife destroyed in preventable wildfires; the physical and economic damage done to rural businesses, families, and communities adjacent to federal forestlands; global air pollution; recreational opportunities; and aesthetics. For nearly a century before then it was among the best forest managers in world history — and even by using the same measures.

    The Kalmiopsis is a documented costly failure as one of the first designated Wilderness Areas and has been for many years. Several other passively managed tracts of federal land created in subsequent years are showing the same pattern of deadly catastrophic wildfires, great costs to taxpayers, degradation of rural communities, widespread pollution, and ugly transformed landscapes. And virtually no effort to reverse this trend, although earlier generations showed us how.

    Why would anyone want to partner with these current “experts?” How could Tribes do any worse? It would be wonderful to see the results of different Tribes managing different forests for different values. Like any independent landowner. Like they used to do.

    • Based on what I’ve seen with Bears Ears, the tribes could do much worse. At least in Utah, the tribes have been completely coopted by wilderness extremist groups like SUWA, which has been directing them and giving them their marching orders the entire time. The entire movement to designate Bears Ears was astroturfed by SUWA and its subsidiary the Rural Utah Project, and is really just a backdoor way of enacting another piece of their Red Rock Wilderness Act that has zero support in Congress.

      Based on what the tribes have asked for in their management plan proposal, they want the entire monument managed as wilderness with no active management whatsoever. They also want most roads closed and most recreational activities banned or heavily restricted, such that even hiking is limited to a handful of designated trails. Of course these restrictions wouldn’t apply to the tribes and their members could continue doing whatever they want there. So basically you get the worst of all worlds: passive management, recreation even more restricted than in wilderness, and racially segregated access to public lands.

  2. Well, Dr. Friedman, it’s good you have tackled this topic.

    Indigenous peoples set at least 47% of fires in the Interior West between 1776 and 1900 because smoke from cultural fire has been long-applied to control tree pests and just 150 years ago over 10 million bison would be clearing the grasses that drive large range fires but just 600,000 bison still exist in the United States today.

    David Treuer was born of a Holocaust survivor and Ojibwe mother. He wrote in The Atlantic that he believes that most land held in America’s national parks should be remanded to Indigenous peoples but it’s my view that the most of the land held in the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service should also be part of that trust.

    Attorneys are gathering even more evidence that the Trump Organization committed crimes against humanity throughout Indian Country not only by slow-walking resources to reservations during a pandemic but by undercounting Indigenous populations during the 2020 Census. Donald Trump even killed the White House Tribal Nations Summit because he loathes Native Americans.

    That “Pocahontas” thing Trump does to Senator Elizabeth Warren doesn’t just betray his hatred for women; it’s a tell that he detests American Indians no matter how much or how little Native blood a person has. That Republicans continue to prop up his assault on the courts and stoke his criminal race baiting are the most telling aspects of this march toward the abyss. Trump’s erasure of protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments was cruel retribution targeting Indigenous peoples.

    Why? In past years the Trump Organization has used the federal courts to punish tribal nations who built casinos Trump said were competition then deployed COVID-19 as a biological weapon in Indian Country. Starting in New York Donald Trump targeted the Mohawk and Oneida Nations for annihilation then his Tulsa trip and his campaign rally in occupied South Dakota spread disease throughout Native America.

    Adjusted for age and population Trump killed many more American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) per capita than he did whites. Some nations are still suspicious. One of the most popular national monuments in New Mexico is just across I-25 from our place but remains closed because it’s co-managed with the Cochiti Pueblo.

    The Buffalo Gap and Fort Pierre National Grasslands in South Dakota are managed from Nebraska. The Grand River National Grassland in northwestern South Dakota is managed from Bismarck, North Dakota.

    Republicans aren’t just fearful of government overreach; they’re frightened public lands will be remanded to the First Nations so in an effort to reverse voter apathy in Indian Country the Montana Democratic Party has become the first state party to formally include Indigenous as equitable partners.

    Montana is home to 12 Indigenous languages three of which are at risk of going extinct after Donald Trump weaponized a novel coronavirus strain killing many Assiniboine, Gros Ventre and Montana Salish elders. During Montana’s last legislative session Trump worshiping reactionary Republicans moved to cut funding for Native cultural preservation. Outside Montana’s reservations the state has become the new Orange County, California where the Last Best Place is becoming the next best strip mine and a welfare rancher’s wet dream.

    It’s time to move the US Forest Service into the Department of the Interior, dissolve the Black Hills National Forest and make it a national monument co-managed by the Park Service and the tribal nations signatory to the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Mato Paha (Bear Butte), the associated national grasslands and the Sioux Ranger District of the Custer Gallatin National Forest should be included in the move.

    Rewild it and rename it Paha Sapa National Monument eventually becoming part of the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge connecting the CM Russell Wildlife Refuge in Montana along the Missouri River to Oacoma, South Dakota combined with corridors from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon in the north and south to the Pecos River through Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

    • Larry … I understand that you don’t like former President Trump, but “Montana is home to 12 Indigenous languages three of which are at risk of going extinct after Donald Trump weaponized a novel coronavirus strain killing many Assiniboine, Gros Ventre and Montana Salish elders”. ????

      Also “The Buffalo Gap and Fort Pierre National Grasslands in South Dakota are managed from Nebraska. The Grand River National Grassland in northwestern South Dakota is managed from Bismarck, North Dakota.”

      I was in Wall SD yesterday and there is an FS office as is in Fort Pierre. OK so they are part of the Nebraska NFs.. but since $ are doled out from the RO.. then perhaps you could also say Wall RD is managed from Lakewood/Golden CO.

      Which is not to say that I disagree about the USG thinking about the question ” what would it take to give some or all of the federal part of the Fort Laramie land back?”

  3. Because of his brutality during the 1855 Battle of Ash Hollow the Lakota called butcher and war criminal, William S. Harney, “Woman Killer.” Earlier in his military career Harney beat an enslaved Black women to death with a rawhide whip but was acquitted by a white jury.

    Since that time George Custer, Phil Sheridan, George Crook and William Harney all committed crimes against humanity yet their names still besmirch numerous government and geographical features.

    The French and Spanish were the first European invaders in what is now the northwest United States and when Lewis and Clark explored before it was Oregon when much of the region was inhabited by the Northern Paiute. The Malheur River Indian Reservation was created by President Ulysses Grant by executive order in 1871 for Paiutes living at Fort Harney until the Bannock War of 1878 dissolved the settlement. Harney County was split from Grant County in 1889 at the time of Statehood and Burns was named county seat. When it was admitted to the Union the Oregon Constitution even contained a clause forbidding Negroes from moving to the state.

    Members of the Wadatika band of Burns Paiute sometimes known as the Harney Valley Paiute spread from the Cascade Mountains to Boise, Idaho but didn’t receive federal recognition until 1968.

    Today, white Republicans in the Northwest have clearly embraced the idea that the ground they live on was seized for them from aboriginal cultures by liberal democrat, President Thomas Jefferson through an executive order that even he believed was unconstitutional.

    Even before its borders were drawn, people floated the idea of creating a slave-owning haven in what is now southern Oregon and Northern California, branding it the “Territory of Jackson,” after President Andrew Jackson. Confederate sympathizers considered several of the new state’s southernmost counties “the Dixie of Oregon.” Later, in the mid-20th century, the State of Jefferson movement emerged in the same area; it nixed owning slaves, but retained a slave owner as its namesake. [Leah Sottile, Oregon’s Greater Idaho movement echoes a long history of racism in the region]

    • Yup! Except for Larry’s hateful Trump-centric politics and butchered Oregon history. But all roads lead to Rome despite the route chosen.

      Long past time the USFS admitted defeat in the recent mismanagement of our public forests and either radically change directions, or return the lands to Indian claimants, states, and counties and return to the principals of the 1897 Organic Act. Or Pinchot. Or common sense and compassion. The current direction of so-called “ecological forestry” and “critical habitat” is a proven and deadly failure. Taxpayers and other citizens deserve better.

  4. If land was turned over to a tribe would they be required to comply with same laws agencies are required to. ESA. NEPA etc and who will pay fire suppression cost

    • At the risk of being wrong, since no one else answered you, my understanding is that Tribal lands are under federal but not state law, and maybe the fire $ would come out of the BIA fire budget?

    • NEPA and to a large degree ESA apply to “federal” agency actions. Also at the risk of being wrong, I think that sovereign tribal governments are not “federal” in the same way that states are not federal (though the legal relationship between the federal government and states or tribes are different), so these laws would not necessarily apply to land owned by tribes. It’s also important to distinguish between transferring ownership and transferring management. The former would more clearly sever the “federal” connection. However, any federal authorization of tribal ownership could attach strings like compliance with these laws (and probably even the laws that currently apply to land management agencies).

      The (National) Bison Range was recently “transferred” to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, but as they explain it: “The federal government acts as a trustee for Indian tribes, including with respect to ownership of tribal lands… The tribe, as the beneficial owner, enjoys the rights and privileges of ownership, but the tribe cannot dispose of, or otherwise convey, the land without approval by the United States.”
      Indian trust land is subject to federal laws that include NEPA and ESA and these laws are administered by the BLM (FLPMA would probably not apply).


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