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Building Partnerships: Training Native American Tribes for Road Decommissioning on United States National Forest Lands

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The new direction in public land management launched by the landmark Northwest Forest Plan has become a means for the United States Forest Service to form a productive partnership with Native Americans in restoring watersheds to environmental health. Elimination or decommissioning of roads became a federally recognized solution to environmental degradation in 1994. The United States national forests contain an estimated 616,250 km of classified roads and over 83,700 km of unclassified roads. While many are necessary for land management, many are significant contributors to environmental damage.

The Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests in Northern California identified approximately 3,200 km of roads for decommissioning within the ancestral boundaries of the Karuk Tribe of California. Their ancestral land spans 6,000 sq. km through the middle reach of the Klamath River basin, with 97 percent of this land existing within the jurisdiction of the Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests. In 1997, the Karuk Tribe began a partnership with the Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests to increase the tribe's involvement in management activities on their ancestral land. A common goal identified for the partnership was watershed restoration and the decommissioning of roads.

TerraWave Systems Inc, a specialist in watershed restoration, management, and training in the Pacific Northwest, was contracted in 1999 to develop the technical expertise needed by the partnership. TerraWave Systems provides a training program to implement an innovative geomorphic approach to watershed restoration. This program will enable Native Americans to become certified supervisors and technicians in demand for the watershed restoration needs of the future. This United States Forest Service and Karuk Tribe partnership is a pioneering step in nation-to-nation relationships, reaping benefits that are economic, social, and political, as well as ecological.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2000-01-01

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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