The U.S. Forest Service, Pit River Tribe and Lomakatsi Restoration Project have signed one of the largest stewardship agreements in U.S. history between the agency and a Native American Tribe. Encompassing one hundred square miles of ancestral tribal homelands, within the Lassen, Modoc and Shasta-Trinity National Forests, the stewardship agreement will allow the Pit River Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service to work together, with the support of Lomakatsi Restoration Project, to design and implement forest and watershed restoration projects that will create tribal jobs and support local industry.
Under this 10-year Master Stewardship Agreement, ecologically-based thinning projects will be implemented in an effort to restore forest health and reduce excessive fuel loads, decrease the risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfires, and strengthen the forest’s ability to withstand challenges associated with climate change. The stewardship agreement was three years in the making.
“The Pit River Tribe is dedicated to caring for these ancestral tribal forests in a way that reduces the risk of severe wildfires and provides for wildlife as well as human communities,” said chairman for the Pit River Tribe Mickey Gemmill.
“This agreement gives the tribal community a tool to collaborate with the Forest Service in caring for these lands.”
Lomakatsi Restoration Project is a nonprofit organization that develops and implements forest and watershed restoration projects throughout Oregon and northern California. Lomakatsi’s workforce training program will help to build the capacity of the Pit River Tribe to implement ecological restoration projects under the new agreement. The goal, according to Lomakatsi executive director Marko Bey, is to support the tribe in taking an active role in restoring their ancestral tribal lands and to help create new forest related businesses and reduce unemployment in the communities.
“This stewardship agreement provides a solid foundation for the Pit River Tribe, Forest Service and Lomakatsi to work together to not only reduce the risk of severe wildfire in the forests, but to build the capacity of the tribal members to implement restoration projects via the workforce training and employment component of this agreement,” said Bey. “The Forest Service is responsible for maintaining the health, diversity, resiliency and productivity of the nation’s forests. The stewardship agreement increases their capacity to treat the thousands of acres under their care.”
“The Forest Service is dedicated to quality land management under the concept of managing for sustainable multiple uses in order to meet the diverse needs of the people,” said Robert Goodwin, Tribal Relations Advisor for the Pacific Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service. “This agreement will provide the ability to work in collaboration with the Pit River Tribe to protect adjacent Indian trust resources from fire, disease, or other threats. It will also increase our capacity to implement important restoration projects by engaging the Pit River Tribe in on-the-ground restoration work.”
The Pit River Tribe is a sovereign federally recognized Native American Tribal Government consisting of eleven autonomous bands whose homes and properties are distributed throughout their ancestral lands. Stewardship goals for the Pit River Tribe ancestral lands include restoring forest diversity and reducing the average density of stands to encourage larger tree growth, reducing the overall fuel levels and increasing the habitat for deer, elk and other wildlife. Pit River Tribe began working with Lomakatsi Restoration Project in 2013, establishing a memorandum of understanding in 2014 to develop a natural resources and ecosystem restoration and training and employment program.
Lomakatsi Restoration is a non-profit organization that develops and implements forest and watershed restoration projects throughout Oregon and northern California. Lomakatsi’s mission is to “restore ecosystems and the sustainability of communities, cultures and economies”. For the past twenty years, Lomakatsi has a proven record of success implementing restoration projects across thousands of acres of forests and miles of streams. They have pioneered precedent setting collaborative strategies that are nationally recognized, involving federal, state, county and city agencies, Native American Tribes, as well as private landowners, other NGO’s and local communities. Lomakatsi plays a key role in providing workforce training in restoration ecology, working with tribal communities as well as the Forest Service to integrate traditional ecological knowledge as well as modern restoration practices in caring for the forest.