[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 148 (Monday, August 3, 2015)]
[Pages 46043-46044]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-18918]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-HQ-NAL-2015-N111; FXGO1660091NALO156FF09D02000]

Native American Policy for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability of a draft policy for public notice and 


SUMMARY: The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issues this draft 
Native American policy for public comment. The purpose of this policy 
is to further the United States' trust responsibility to Indian tribes 
by establishing a framework on which to base our continued interactions 
with federally recognized tribes as well as interactions with Alaska 
Native Corporations. The policy recognizes the sovereignty of federally 
recognized tribes; states that the Service will work on a government-
to-government basis with tribal governments; and includes guidance on 
co-management, access to and use of cultural resources, capacity 
development, law enforcement, and education.

DATES: The Service will accept public comment through September 2, 

ADDRESSES: The draft Native American policy is available at http://www.fws.gov/policy/draft510fw1.pdf. The existing policy is available in 
the Fish and Wildlife Service Manual at http://www.fws.gov/policy/native-american-policy.pdf. To submit comments, please mail or email 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Scott Aikin, Native American Programs 
Coordinator, by mail at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 911 NE 11th 
Avenue, Portland, OR, 97232; or via email at scott_aikin@fws.gov.



    We are publishing this draft Native American policy, which is 
available at http://www.fws.gov/policy/draft510fw1.pdf.
    When it becomes final, we will incorporate the policy in Part 510 
of the Fish and Wildlife Service Manual. The purpose of the policy is 
to articulate principles and serve as a framework for government-to-
government relationships and interactions between the Service and 
federally recognized tribes to conserve fish and wildlife and protect 
cultural resources. The policy includes guidance on:
     The relationship between the Service and federally 
recognized tribes, inter-tribal organizations, including Alaska Native 
Organizations (ANO), and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) 
     Service employee responsibilities,
     Government-to-government consultation and relations,
     Tribal access to Service lands and Service-managed 
resources for cultural and religious practices,
     Tribal cultural use of plants and animals,
     Law enforcement,
     Training and education,
     Capacity building and funding, and
     Guidance for implementing and monitoring the policy.
    This policy is not meant to stand on its own. To implement this 
policy, the Service will update its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
Tribal Consultation Handbook and develop training so that Service 
employees will be able to better perform duties related to this policy.

Draft Policy

    We recognize that when the Service and tribes work together on 
resource matters, our longstanding relationship is strengthened and 
resources are better served. This policy provides guidance on 
recognition of tribal sovereign status, Service responsibilities, and 
opportunities for the Service and tribes to work together toward 
natural and cultural resource conservation and access. The purpose of 
this policy is to provide Service employees with guidance when working 
with recognized tribes and other entities such as Alaska Native 
Organizations and Corporations.
    Section 1 of this policy recognizes the unique relationship that 
Federal governmental agencies have with federally recognized tribes. It 
explains that while this is a nationwide policy, the Service maintains 
flexibility for Service Regions and programs to work more appropriately 
with the tribes and ANCSA corporations.
    Section 2 includes the definitions of terms used in the policy.
    Section 3 lists the authorities under which the Service is able to 
take the actions described in the policy.
    Section 4 describes the responsibilities of employees at all levels 
of the Service to carry out this policy.
    Section 5 recognizes the U.S. Government's trust responsibility 
toward federally recognized tribes, tribes' sovereign authority over 
their members and territory, the tribes' rights to self-govern, and 
that government-to-government communication may occur at various levels 
within the Service and the tribes.
    Section 6 describes communication, consultation, and information 
sharing between the Service and tribes.
    Section 7 sets out a range of collaborative management 
opportunities and establishes principles of co-management where tribes 
and the Service have shared responsibility.
    Section 8 recognizes that, for meaningful cultural and religious

[[Page 46044]]

practices, tribal members may need to access Service lands and use 
plants and animals for which the Service has management responsibility.
    Section 9 recognizes tribal law enforcement responsibilities for 
managing Indian lands and tribal resources and encourages cooperative 
law enforcement between the Service and tribes.
    Section 10 invites tribal governments to work with the Service to 
develop and present training for Service employees. It also makes 
available Service technical experts to help tribes develop technical 
expertise, supports tribal self-determination, encourages cross-
training of Service and tribal personnel, and supports Native American 
professional development.
    Section 11 establishes monitoring and implementation guidance for 
the policy.
    Section 12 describes the policy's scope and limitations.

Background and Development of This Draft Policy

    On June 28, 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) 
adopted its Native American Policy (available at http://www.fws.gov/policy/native-american-policy.pdf) to guide the Service's government-
to-government relations with federally recognized tribal governments in 
conserving fish and wildlife resources and to ``help accomplish its 
mission and concurrently to participate in fulfilling the Federal 
Government's and Department of the Interior's trust responsibilities to 
assist Native Americans in protecting, conserving, and utilizing their 
reserved, treaty guaranteed, or statutorily identified trust assets.''
    In July 2013, the Service convened a Native American Policy Team to 
review and update the policy. The Native American Policy Team is 
comprised of Service representatives from its Regions and programs. In 
addition, the Service invited all federally recognized tribal 
governments across the United States to nominate representatives to 
serve on the team. A total of 16 self-nominated tribal representatives 
from all of the major Regions across the country joined the team to 
provide input and tribal perspective.
    Tribal representatives from the following tribal governments and 
organizations participated in a series of meetings with Service 
representatives to review and update the policy: Cherokee Nation, 
Chugach Regional Resources Commission, Confederated Tribes of Grand 
Ronde, Eastern Band Cherokee Indians, Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior 
Chippewa, Gros Ventre and Assiniboine of Fort Belknap, Great Lakes 
Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, Native 
Village of Emmonak, Navajo Nation, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Penobscot Indian 
Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission 
Indians, Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, 
and Yurok Tribe. Varying perspectives were shared on a wide range of 
issues including sovereignty, co-management, law enforcement, and trust 
responsibilities, among others. Substantial focus and attention was 
given to improving the implementation and accountability aspects of the 
    Although Service and tribal team members took part in writing the 
draft, full agreement was not possible on every issue and some 
differences remain. In November 2014, the Yurok Tribe withdrew from the 
Service's Native American Policy Team. Other tribal representatives 
have continued to participate in an effort to work out differences and 
make further improvements to the policy.
    In November 2014, the Service invited federally recognized tribal 
governments in each of its Regions and Alaska Native Corporations to 
consult on a government-to-government basis. The Service provided an 
early working draft of the updated policy for their review and input. A 
total of 23 of the tribal representatives submitted written comments to 
further develop and refine the draft updated policy.
    From December 2014 to April 2015, the Service also held 24 
consultation meetings and webinars within the Regions and nationally. 
Representatives from approximately 100 tribes attended these meetings. 
In March 2015, the Service revised the working draft of the updated 
policy and distributed it for internal Service review throughout all 
levels, Regions, and programs within the agency. We incorporated 
feedback from the internal Service review and additional comments 
received from tribal governments into this draft updated Native 
American Policy.

Open Comment Period

    While this publication opens the 30-day public review period, we 
also invite and encourage tribes and Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) 
to continue to review and submit comments. The Service's invitation to 
federally recognized tribal governments to consult on a government-to-
government basis regarding development of this updated Native American 
Policy continues until 30 days after this Federal Register 
notification. Comments from local, State, and Federal government 
agencies; federally recognized tribal governments; inter-tribal 
organizations, non-federally recognized tribal governments; ANCSA 
corporations; and the general public are welcome.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, email address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comments, you should be 
aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying 
information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Dated: June 24, 2015.
James W. Kurth,
Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
[FR Doc. 2015-18918 Filed 7-31-15; 8:45 am]