FFS Biologist and Tribal Liaison Serra Hoagland makes her base at the Salish Kootenai College (SKC) in Pablo, Montana. SKC is the only tribal college and university in the United States that offers a four-year forestry program. In a pilot program designed to provide opportunities for experience and monitoring in areas related to tribal forestry and resource management, SKC students are gaining boots-on-the-ground experience. The program is part of a large collaborative effort involving the Karuk tribe in northwestern California, the Western Klamath Restoration Project (WKRP), the Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests, and the Pacific Southwest Research Station whose purpose is to maintain resilient Klamath ecosystems, communities, and economics guided by cultural and contemporary knowledge.
By working with the WKRP and partners, Serra was able to bring three SKC students to participate in a weeklong professional development and mentoring workshop. These students came from diverse cultural backgrounds and fields of study, and were interested in learning more about collaborative fire and forest management in the mid-Klamath region. The SKC students had the opportunity to gain experience in forest and fire management from experienced professionals and local affiliates of the WKRP. They also gained insight to culturally responsive approaches for addressing complex environmental issues on public and tribal lands.
As tribal members themselves, Serra and the students found it a unique experience to listen to another tribes’ perspective on food sovereignty and government trust responsibility/relationship as it relates to land stewardship. Including tribal leadership in three highly professional levels, USFS District Ranger, tribal natural resource director, and PSW researcher, presents a unique, unprecedented opportunity for the Forest Service and other land management agencies looking to restore forests. This model is likely the only example in the United States where tribal members or descendants represent scientists, the tribe, and land managers.