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Working Together to Implement the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004: Partnerships for Today and Tomorrow

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The Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004, PL 108-278 (TFPA), was passed in response to fires that swept the West in 2002 and 2003, devastating many tribal forest resources and communities. TFPA was heralded as a critical authority to protect tribal communities, trust resources, and lands. However, TFPA was rarely used, despite its utility to address landscape issues across tribal and nontribal forest ownerships. This article discusses the background of TFPA and the partnership between the Intertribal Timber Council, US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs to promote TFPA through surveys, webinars, and three workshops. The TFPA workshops present a lens to examine approaches that are transferable to other collaborative forest management actions across boundaries with additional partners. This article discusses their efficacy to create more resilient forests that can withstand environmental challenges stemming from climate change and other issues.

Management and Policy Implications The Intertribal Timber Council (ITC) study (ITC 2013) and subsequent Tribal Forest Protection Act (TFPA) workshops revealed and subsequent Tribal Forest Protection Act (TFPA) workshops had four implications for forest managers and policymakers. First, the law recognizes that tribal rights and interests are greatly affected by federal forest management decisions and policy regarding adjacent, off-reservation forests. These federal agencies also have a fiduciary trust responsibility to protect tribal assets. Second, TFPA and tribal participation bring the legislative authority of federally reserved rights, consultation requirements, and government-to-government relationships to the table. Third, long-term, place-based experience enables tribal communities to accumulate traditional environmental knowledge over multiple generations. Fourth, many tribes have expertise and resources to contribute to forest management across boundaries (Tamez 2012a). These implications are vital to increasing the capacity for tribes, land management agencies, and other parties to forge long-term partnerships to sustain productive forests on the landscape. Many of the lessons learned and tools developed through TFPA training and the Template are transferable to other collaborative efforts. Employing TFPA and related tools, finding mutual interests, and providing unique knowledge and resources to shared goals must gain currency for the future of our forests. Resilient, healthy forests spanning jurisdictions require collective, unified efforts using all the tools we have.

Keywords: Indian forest management; Tribal Forest Protection Act; collaboration

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 25, 2017

This article was made available online on April 13, 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "Working Together to Implement the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004: Partnerships for Today and Tomorrow".

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