BLM Publishes Tribal Co-stewardship Policy, Reaffirms Commitment to Work with Tribes to Manage Public Lands
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Building on the recent historic agreement between the Bureau of Land Management and five Tribal Nations on the co-management of the Bears Ears National Monument, and in furtherance of the Joint Secretarial Order on Fulfilling the Trust Responsibility to Indian Tribes in the Stewardship of Federal Lands and Waters, today the BLM published formal guidance that outlines how the agency will continue to partner with Tribes to ensure that co-stewardship of public lands incorporates and considers Tribal input, values, and interests.
The BLM’s guidance outlines specific policies and guidelines for managing federal lands and waters “in a manner that seeks to protect the treaty, religious, subsistence, and cultural interests of federally recognized Tribes” consistent with the BLM’s mission and applicable law. The BLM will adhere to the principles set forth in the Joint Secretarial Order to engage Tribes in meaningful consultation at the earliest phases of planning and decision-making in order to provide an opportunity for Tribes to shape the direction of the BLM’s land management activities.
“This policy reaffirms the BLM’s commitment to our important work with Tribes in management of the public lands, which are the ancestral homelands of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “As the country’s largest land manager, it is critical that the BLM respect the nation-to-nation relationship that exists with American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes.”
Co-stewardship refers to a broad range of working relationships with American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes, as well as Tribal consortia and Tribally led entities exercising the delegated authority of federally recognized Tribes. Co-stewardship can include co-management, collaborative and cooperative management, and Tribally led stewardship, and can be implemented through cooperative agreements, memoranda of understanding, self-governance agreements, and other mechanisms.
The Joint Secretarial Order – signed by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture during the 2021 White House Tribal Nations Summit – broadly requires that consultation and collaboration be included in Federal land management priorities and direction for recreation, range, timber, energy production and other uses, and conservation of wilderness, refuges, watersheds, wildlife habitat, and other values.
Under the Joint Secretarial Order, and as outlined by the guidance released today, the BLM and other bureaus will undertake five specific actions, including:
- Ensuring that all decisions include consideration of how to safeguard the interests of Indian Tribes;
- Entering into co-stewardship agreements when appropriate;
- Identifying and supporting opportunities to consolidate Tribal homelands and empower Tribal stewardship;
- Performing a legal review of treaty responsibilities and authorities; and
Issuing a report on compliance with the Joint Secretarial Order.
The BLM co-stewardship policy supports the Secretary of the Interior’s priority of bolstering government-to-government relationships with Tribal nations, while acknowledging the past and working toward a better future for Indian Country.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.