Throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the Service and a host of tribes began dialog and projects on how to advance mutual conservation programs and interests.
In June 1994, under then Director Mollie Beattie, the Service drafted and issued its current national Native American Policy, for guiding the agency’s growing involvement with tribal conservation partners . Chief among the Policy’s tenets were these ten guiding principles:
- Sovereignty – The Service recognized Native American governments as governmental sovereigns.
- Conservation – The ultimate goal is to effect long-term fish and wildlife conservation.
- Government-to-Government Relations – The Service will strive to maintain government-to-government relationships with Native American governments, and will pursue formal agreements that clearly identify roles, responsibilities and obligations for each party in conservation ventures.
- Self-Determination – The Service favors empowering Native American governments and supporting their missions and objectives, and further supports the authority of Native American governments to manage, co-manage or cooperatively manage fish and wildlife resources. In recognition of Public Law 93-638, the Service is committed to entering into contracts, cooperative agreements and grants with Native American governments at their request for the administration of fish and wildlife conservation programs.
- Communication – The Service will consult with Native American governments on fish and wildlife resource matters of mutual interest and concern to the extent allowed by law. The Service will also encourage and facilitate communication and cooperation among Native American governments, States and Federal agencies and others to ensure that common conservation interests and goals are addressed and discussed.
- Funding – The Service will assist Native American governments in identifying Federal and non-Federal funding sources that are available for fish and wildlife resource management activities.
- Culture and Religion – The Service will involve Native American governments in all Service actions that may affect their cultural or religious interests, including archaeological sites.
- Law Enforcement – Service law enforcement agents will assist with the cooperative enforcement of Federal wildlife laws. The Service will encourage the use of cooperative law enforcement as an integral component of Native American, Federal and State agreements relating to fish and wildlife resources.
- Technical Assistance – The service will make available expertise from all Service program areas to assist Native American governments in the management of fish and wildlife resources.
- Training and Education – The Service will pursue cultural awareness training of its own staffs to ensure their understanding of Native American traditions, cultures and values. The Service will strive to provide Native American governments the same access to fish and wildlife resource training programs as provided to other government agencies; and the Service will continue in its specialized training endeavors such as those in law enforcement.
As an outgrowth of the issuance of its Native American Policy, the Service appointed its first national Native American Liaison Officer in 1994. The responsibilities for the Office of the Native American Liaison include:
- providing counsel to the Director of the service concerning Native American issues that impact Service operations
- serving as point-of-contact for tribal conservation issues
- serving as liaison to tribal governments for wildlife conservation issues that impact Federal and tribal resources
- developing guidance materials, such as handbooks, Director's and Secretarial Orders, as well as legal and policy memoranda regarding tribal/Service issues
- serving as non-BIA lead for Departmental tribal initiatives, e.g., Self-Governance Act application, Self- Determination Act contracting, sacred sites access, tribal colleges cooperative education program, and water rights.
Since the late 1990’s, the Service has also maintained Native American Liaison offices in each of its seven geographic regions. The roles of these offices parallel and support national missions and goals; additionally, each serves as “eyes and ears” for their Regions to identify mutual resource opportunities or help avert potential resource conflicts.
One of the greatest strides forward for Service/Native American conservation endeavors occurred early in Fiscal Year 2002 (October, 2001) when Congress initiated and funded two new conservation programs expressly for tribal governments.
The Tribal Landowner Incentive Program (TLIP) and the Tribal Wildlife Grant Program (TWG) are intended to provide tribal governments up to 100% funding for qualifying conservation programs.
For the TLIP grant program Congress provided for up to a 75% Federal share of funding to tribes for actions and activities that protect and restore habitats benefiting Federally list species, as well as those species that are proposed or candidates for listing, or other species deemed at risk on tribal lands.
With the TWG program Congress allowed for up to 100% Federal funding for tribal conservation activities that develop or implement new programs to benefit wildlife and their habitat, including species that are not hunted or fished.
Early in 2004, the Service made its first grant awards under these two programs. It made 79 grants totaling almost $14 million to help 60 federally recognized Indian tribes in their efforts to conserve and recover threatened, endangered and at-risk species on tribal lands. Of the $14 million, nearly $4 million under TLIP will help fund 23 projects. Contributions from tribes and other partners raise the total conservation value to approximately $6.8 million. The grants were chosen through a competitive process. The maximum award under this program was $200,000, with a required minimum match of 25 percent from non-federal funds. In 2004 budget constraints reduced funding to $3 million and the maximum award is now set at $150,000.
Under TWG about $10 million will help fund 56 projects; with additional contributions from tribes and other partners, the total value approaches $12.4 million. Although matching funds are not required under this program, they are considered an indicator of a tribe’s commitment. The maximum award under this grant program is $250,000. 2004 funds are $6 million and maximum award remained at $250,000 .
Information about FWS/Tribal connections coming soon
Region 1 - Pacific Region and CNO Native American Affairs Liason - Portland, Oregon
Region 6 - Mountain and Prairie Regional Web site - Denver, Colorado