Native Resources

The vitality and sustainability of natural resources are integral to the health of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples, communities, cultures, and economies, as well as to their surrounding communities. The benefits of tribal natural resource management and development include creating jobs; maintaining tribal societal cohesion; forming healthy tribal and non-tribal communities and relations; developing innovative approaches to address pervasive unemployment and poor health brought on by environmental factors; and diminishing strain on land management and law enforcement services, among other things.


Many tribes and intertribal organizations work diligently on fisheries, fish restoration, and recovery projects, often in collaboration with non-tribal groups. An example is the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF), which addresses watershed restoration and salmon recovery work for Endangered Species Act listings and populations, and is critical to meeting trust obligations codified in treaties, laws, and other legal instruments regarding Indian fishing rights. This fund originated with the groundbreaking, multi-governmental collaborative project in salmon habitat restoration that was led by the Nisqually Tribe and recognized by President Obama with the nation’s first Coastal America Partnership Award in late 2011.


Forests are also a central tribal resource. Of the 56 million acres of federal Indian trust land, 18 million acres are forest lands, within which 5.7 million acres are designated for commercial forestry. Tribal and US Forest Service (USFS) forests share 2,100 miles of common boundaries. Combining sound business practices, traditional ecological wisdom and practice, modern techniques, and an inherent respect for the land, many tribes engage in sustainable forestry management practices that are recognized as innovative national (and international) models. Indian trust forests are significantly more productive than their counterparts on USFS lands, generating on a per-acre basis about 250 percent of the harvest produced by comparable USFS lands. With an allowable harvest of 700 million board feet, commercial forestry on Indian lands is a key economic activity for over 80 tribes. Additionally, several timber tribes are engaging in biomass projects to generate renewable energy and jobs for tribal people and the surrounding community.

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