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Center for First Americans Forestlands

[photo:] The Menominee Indian Tribe is a world leader in indigenous and sustainable forest management. Photograph shows forest located on the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin.The Center for First Americans Forestlands is a unique partnership that brings together the three branches of the USDA Forest Service with the College of Menominee Nation to provide American Indian communities access to resources from all branches of the Forest Service and the College of Menominee Nation facilities and programming.

The Menominee Indian Tribe is a world leader in indigenous and sustainable forest management. The tribe was one of the first communities in the United States to articulate a vision for the practice of sustainable forest management. The tribe has actively managed the same forests for thousands of years, and has harvested timber from their forests on a sustainable basis for the past 150 years. Today, the Menominee Forest has more volume and contains higher quality trees than it did in 1854 when the reservation was established.  The Menominee people view their current and past culture as based on a profound relationship with their forest. Sustainable forest management in the United States began on the Menominee Reservation.

The goal of the partnership is to promote sustainable forestry management practices through research, education, policy analysis, and technical assistance. Research projects are closely tied to technical assistance and education projects to ensure relevance to American Indian communities.

The Partnership designs research, education, policy analysis, and technical assistance projects around integrated themes:

  • American Indian Forestry
  • Forest Products Utilization
  • Climate Change
  • Cross-Boundary Management
  • Green Building & Design
  • Invasive Species
  • Water Issues
  • Values and Decision Making
  • Social Aspects of Forest Management

The Partnership’s stakeholders include:

  • American Indian tribes
  • American Indian forests and land managers
  • American Indian communities within or adjacent to national forest boundaries.
  • Forest Service researchers and managers
  • Tribal colleges and universities
  • A broad community interested in forest management and forest products use


The Forest Service has partnered with many organizations to make this project a success.

Acres of Forest Affected

18 million acres of tribally
managed forests nationwide plus
170 million acres of forest
in the eastern U.S.



Active National Forests Involved

15 National Forests and
1 National Grassland in the
Eastern Region (Region 9)

Annual Forest Service Budget for the Center for First Americans Forestlands



The Center for First Americans Forestlands partnership’s accomplishments include:

  • Hired more than 25 student College of Menominee Nation interns and students.
  • Leveraged $963,500 for projects including collaborative research, education and outreach, internships and intern training, and manufacturing and marketing.
  • Facilitated the College of Menominee Nation’s involvement with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s successful 2011 proposal to establish the Department of Interior’s Northeast Climate Science Center.
  • Presented guided tours attended by more than 500 people on Menominee forest management and the tribal community.
  • Presented lectures and workshops that reached more than 1,500 people on topics including American Indian forestry, climate change, invasive species, and sustainability.
  • Distributed more than 4,000 “Emerald Ash Borer Impacts on American Indian Community” brochures to interested stakeholders both tribal and non-tribal.
  • Hosted a summit on June 6-7, 2012 titled “Shifting Seasons: Great Lakes Forest, Industry, Products, and Resource Summit.” USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer gave the keynote address.
  • Facilitated technical exchange visits with indigenous communities in Latin America in conjunction with the Forest Service’s International Programs.
  • Worked with NRS Forest Inventory and Analysis Program to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge into sampling protocols designed to assess birch bark resources in the Lake States.
  • In coordination with Forest Products Laboratory, actively researching the effectiveness of using acoustic technology to more efficiently sort trees and logs to optimize their value and use.
  • Working with Menominee tribal enterprises to develop business and marketing strategies for value added timber products.


This partnership is providing American Indian communities access to resources from all branches of the Forest Service and the College of Menominee Nation.  Projects are focused on creating, distilling, and disseminating knowledge about sustainable forest management, forest products utilization, indigenous knowledge, and sustainable development. Internships are contributing to development of a diverse, knowledgeable, and skilled workforce in the areas of sustainable forestry, sustainable utilization, and indigenous knowledge. The Partnership has been instrumental in creating a forum for discourse, technology transfer, deployment of scientific results, and information exchange on the best management and utilization practices among multiple constituencies locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Lessons Learned

The College of Menominee Nation and the USDA Forest Service share many common values and concerns centered on the stewardship of the lands and natural environment. Through this partnership, the Center for First Americans Forestlands is creating forums for sharing information, exploring indigenous wisdom and western science, involving American Indian students in research, and integrating American Indian cultural values with learning, research, and education.

[photo:] Verna Fowler, College of Menominee Nation President 

“Dozens of students have benefitted academically from internships and other experiences brought to us by the Forest Service, and among them have been several who have found career directions they might otherwise have not considered. Our faculty and staff have also had enriching opportunities in their work with our on-site Liaison, Dr. Michael Dockry. His work with the College’s Sustainable Development Institute has been a lesson in bringing federal expertise and tribal knowledge together.”
--Verna Fowler, College of Menominee Nation President

Partner Organizations

Last Modified: July 31, 2019