Conserving this Nation’s fish and other aquatic resources cannot be successful without the partnership of Tribes; they manage or influence some of the most important aquatic habitats both on and off reservations. In addition, the Federal government and the Service have distinct and unique obligations toward Tribes based on trust responsibility, treaty provisions, and statutory mandates.
Working with Tribes | Overview
American Indian lands in the lower 48 States comprise over 45 million acres of reserved lands and an additional 10 million in individual allotments. There are another 40 million acres of traditional Native lands in Alaska. Much of this acreage remains relatively wild and unspoiled. Home to more than 560 Federally recognized tribes, these lands provide the living space, the sacred and cultural sites, and many of the natural resources that tribes need to keep their people and cultures alive.
The importance of these lands to the tribes cannot be overstated. They provide spiritual and physical sustenance, and increasingly, the means for economic self-sufficiency. Tribal governments generally place a high priority on preserving these lands and their natural resources, including many vulnerable wildlife species, for future generations.
As a representative of the Federal government and a steward of our country's natural resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a responsibility to manage these natural resources in a way that:
- reflects our Federal trust responsibility toward Indian tribes
- respects tribal rights
- acknowledges the treaty obligations of the United States toward tribes
- uses the government-to-government relationship in dealing with tribes
- protects natural resources that the Federal government holds in trust for tribes.
The Service and Indian tribes have a common goal of conserving sensitive species (including candidate, proposed, and listed species) and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Indian lands are not federal public lands or part of the public domain, and are not subject to federal public land laws. They were retained by tribes or were set aside for tribal use pursuant to treaties, statutes, judicial decisions, executive orders or agreements. These lands are managed by Indian tribes in accordance with tribal goals and objectives, within the framework of applicable laws. Many Indian lands have remained untouched by conventional land use practices and therefore are an island of high quality ecosystems, attracting many sensitive species.
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