Approximately every ten years, a new forest management plan is developed for the Flathead Reservation. Each plan has been more progressive than the last. Due to direction of federal mandates and stand conditions, each plan has expressed increased forest health concerns (S. McDonald 2003).
The Indian Self-Determination Act of 1976" (Public Law 93-638) allowed tribes to contract with the federal government to manage certain Federal programs. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have taken a lead in assuming management responsibility for these programs and now manage more than one hundred federal, as well as state programs on the Reservation. In addition, the Tribes manage 70 Tribal programs and have repurchased more than two hundred forty-five thousand acres of Reservation land since 1944. Because of these successful efforts, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have become one of the ten tribes nationwide to participate in a Self-Governance Demonstration Project initiated in 1988 (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes 1994).
In 1995, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Forestry Department compacted with the federal government under PL 93-638. This allowed for the Tribes to play the leading role in forestry decisions on their land. Currently, the forest management plan is focused on ecosystem management. In the Flathead Indian Reservation Forest Management Plan, ecosystem management is defined as:
the integrated use of ecological knowledge at various scales to produce desired resource values, products, services, and conditions in ways that also sustain diversity and productivity of ecosystems. This approach blends physical, biological, cultural, and social needs (2000).
Because ecosystem management is a fairly new concept compared to past forest management plans, the Tribes are formulating their perception as to how this management strategy is most suitable for their land, culture, and people.
Mission Statement: Forestry mission is to promote perpetually productive ecosystems for future generations in accordance with goals of the Confederated Salish, Pend dOreille, and Kootenai Tribes. We will prescribe and implement sound silvicultural treatments to promote forest health and return forest lands to near pre-settlement, fire maintained forest structures. Our decisions will be based on Tribal social and economic needs, as well as sound scientific and ecological principles.