Tlingit & Haida and Forest Service sign agreements for co-stewardship of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Tlingit & Haida) and the USDA Forest Service signed a memorandum of understanding and master participating agreement Friday to formalize their mutual commitment to co-stewardship of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area (MGRA).

 “These lands are the traditional territory of our people. As a federally recognized tribe, it’s our responsibility to steward these lands on behalf of our people,” said Tlingit & Haida President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson. “It’s important we have a voice in the management of our ancestral homelands. We have historic knowledge that should be used and shared when it comes to creating future plans for the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area. These lands tie us to our ancestors. They help us understand where we come from, who we are, and how to live. We are dedicated to the preservation and protection of the historic and cultural resources in the area.”

The purpose of the agreements is to meet the spirit and intent of Joint Secretarial Order 3403, to fulfill trust responsibility with tribes in the stewardship of federal lands and waters.

That includes ensuring management decisions affecting the MGRA consider the expertise and traditional, cultural, and historical knowledge of the Tlingit and Haida people whenever possible.  

The Order also directs that tribal consultation and collaboration be implemented along with federal land management priorities and direction for recreation, range timber, energy production, and conservation of wilderness, refuges, watersheds, and wildlife habitat.  

“I am honored to sign these co-stewardship agreements with President Peterson,” said Alaska Regional Forester Dave Schmid. “Co-stewardship of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area recognizes the importance of these lands and waters to the Tlingit and Haida people and helps uphold our nation-to-nation relationship with the Central Council of the Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. We look forward to working together in our administration of the area.”       

Tlingit & Haida and the Forest Service have historically entered into agreements that express a shared vision for collaboration.

Both have worked closely on the creation of the Seacoast Indigenous Guardians Network for Southeast Alaska and to implement economic development and workforce development projects in the region under the USDA Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy.  

Through the co-stewardship agreements, Tlingit & Haida and the Forest Service have committed to work on various interpretive projects, programming, and planning efforts that enhance the cultural interpretive programs and displays within the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center and Mendenhall Glacier Campground.

Tlingit & Haida will also oversee the hiring of interpretive staff for the visitor center and provide cultural training to existing staff.