TRIBAL CONSULTATION POLICY FOR THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

More than 565 American Indian tribes in the United States are recognized by the Secretary of the Interior as having a special legal relationship with the United States. It is through this special relationship with Indian tribes that the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs has a duty to consult with tribal governments on proposed federal actions.

On December 1, 2011, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk announced a new Tribal Consultation Policy for the U.S. Department of the Interior. The policy creates a framework for synchronizing DOI's consultation practices with its bureaus and offices by providing an approach that applies in all circumstances where statutory or Administrative opportunities to consult with Indian tribes exist.

According to a DOI news release, the new policy emphasizes trust, respect, and shared responsibility in providing tribal governments an expanded role in informing federal policy that impacts Indian country. Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk noted, "Under this policy, consultation will be an open, transparent and deliberative process."

The policy was developed in close coordination with tribal leaders around the nation and representatives of the DOI's bureaus and included extensive meetings in seven cities with more than 300 tribal representatives. The U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution facilitated the process with contracted neutrals Lucy Moore and Jon Townsend. The neutral team worked with the DOI's Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution to assist the group in developing this significant policy.

In 2012, the U.S. Institute will be working with DOI and Alaska tribes and Native Corporations to develop a supplement to the policy that is responsive to the unique aspects of Alaska. The supplemental policy is expected to be completed in the spring following input from consultation sessions and comments received through the Federal Register.

U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
Senior Program Manager for the U.S. Department of Interior Tribal Consultation Policy Facilitation
SARAH PALMER

Sarah Palmer is a Senior Program Manager at the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution and is responsible for coordinating the Native American and Alaska Native Environmental Program. This national program focuses on intergovernmental collaboration and dispute resolution of natural and cultural resources matters between federal agencies and Native American and Alaska Native tribes. Sarah also serves as the project manager for the U.S. Institute's work with the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee and facilitates the Missouri River Basin Interagency Roundtable. Sarah joined the U.S. Institute in 1999.

Sarah Palmer, Senior Program Manager
U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution
palmer@ecr.gov
(520) 901-8556