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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
REGION 8: Tribal Listening Session Provides Forum for Tribal Consultation, Cooperation and Conservation
Region 8, November 20, 2009

On November 20th 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s, Pacific Southwest Regional Office (Service) and Bureau of Indian Affairs, Pacific Regional Office (Bureau) co-hosted a Tribal Listening Session in Palm Desert, California. The session provided a forum to discuss a range of conservation issues of concern to California tribes, including improving communications and government-to-government consultations and exploring opportunities for partnerships between tribes and the federal agencies.  

The day-long session was attended by the regional directors of the Service and Bureau as well as field office supervisors and staff from both agencies. Roy Sampsel, Executive Director for the Institute for Tribal Government, Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University, served as moderator for the session, which was focused on issues of concern to Southern California Tribes.  Eleven of 31 invited tribes, as well as two tribal not-for-profit groups attended the session.   

Tribal listening sessions provide the Service and Bureau opportunities to engage directly with tribal representatives, and discuss how agencies and tribes can improve services, consultation, and coordination.  Some of the issues raised were addressed on the spot, while other more involved issues were addressed by developing lines of communication to continue after the session. In addition, there were some areas where the Bureau and Service found they could work together to better serve tribal governments. The Service plans on hosting future listening sessions focused on tribes in northern California and Nevada.  

The November session coincided with a series of national directives and orders relating to Department of the Interior agencies’ interactions with tribes.  A September 2009 Secretarial Order, “Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on America’s Water, Land, and other Natural and Cultural Resources,” instructs agencies to include tribes when planning and implementing actions addressing climate change and green energy. On November 5, 2009, a Tribal Summit was held in Washington, D.C. and a Presidential Memorandum was issued requiring all DOI agencies to report on how they are implementing implement the November 6, 2000, Executive Order 13175 “Consultation and Coordination with Tribal Governments.”  The Department of the Interior is hosting tribal dialogue sessions across the U.S. seeking tribal input on its agencies’ implementation of EO 13175.

The Service’s Pacific Southwest Region (Region 8) has approximately 127 federally recognized tribes within its boundaries and fully realizes the wealth of biological and ecological knowledge retained in tribal lore and culture. The Service recognizes that Tribes have been managers, observers, and researchers of wildlife and ecosystems far longer than western civilization. Strengthening coordination and communications with tribes should not just be seen as a responsibility, but as an opportunity to form closer relationships with a political entity that holds vast amounts of traditional knowledge relating to ecological functioning, and that also shares many of our goals and values for a healthy and naturally functioning environment.

 

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Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov