The Chippewa National Forest signed an agreement Friday with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe regarding shared stewardship of the forest.
Signing the memorandum of understanding (MOU) were Bob Lueckel, acting regional forester with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, and Faron Jackson Sr., chairman of the Leech Lake Band.
A USDA news release described the MOU as “part of a unique federal-tribal relationship that presents opportunities to balance the social, economic and cultural well-being of the Band, while addressing the agency’s multiple-use mission.”
Lueckel said the Forest Service and the Band will work together on forest and watershed restoration, improving fish and wildlife habitat and preserving socially and culturally significant places. He described “the overlap of boundaries and jurisdiction” as an opportunity to work together.
The MOU builds on a 2013 agreement regarding cooperation and jurisdiction in managing natural resources, economic development, education and preserving Ojibwe lifeways.
The U.S. Congress created the Chippewa National Forest in the early 20th century from lands that had been set aside for the Band as a treaty-guaranteed reservation. Today, about 90% of the reservation lies within the forest’s boundaries, while 45% of the forest lies within the reservation.
To explain the importance of both organizations working together, Lueckel cited wildfires and invasive species as issues that “go beyond the shared forest and Reservation boundaries and affect people beyond the jurisdiction of any single agency or organization.”