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Tribal Assistance

NRCS has expertise in agronomy, range management, forestry, agricultural engineering, soils, water management, wildlife habitat management, aquaculture, resource inventories, and watershed and flood protection.

NRCS field office personnel provides assistance upon request to private landowners and operators, Indian tribes and Tribal members. Assistance provided includes, but is not limited to, the following: Conservation planning on cropland, pastureland, and rangeland and assistance to apply rangeland management and improvement practices, irrigation water development structures and management, brush control, erosion control structures, agriculture, forestry, farmland protection, wildlife habitat improvement, and wetlands restoration.

American Indians and Alaska Natives are eligible to participate in all NRCS programs and may have special status as provided by statute or regulation. The demand for NRCS services by American Indian tribal groups continues to increase as the value of NRCS assistance becomes better understood.

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NRCS Programs for Tribes and Tribal Members

The NRCS provides technical assistance and financial assistance to private landowners and operators, tribes and tribal members to assist them in protecting and improving natural resources such as soil, water, air, plants, and animals.

NRCS can assist tribes and tribal members in conservation work, and how to apply for NRCS programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which has fund pools designed specifically for tribal Conservation goals with acknowledgement of tribal traditional lands management. 

In California, we have worked with tribes in more conventional agricultural landscapes such as orchards, and row crops, but we have also sought to acknowledge the unique relationships that California’s first peoples have with the land, traditional methods of land stewardship and agriculture and traditional ecological knowledge that have been passed on for generations. With that in mind and in coordination with our Tribal Advisory Committee, we have developed and continued to refine fund pools designed specifically for tribal Conservation goals. Tribal Traditional Plant Restoration, Tribal Diversified Farms, Tribal Forestland, and Tribal Rangeland EQIP fund pools focus specifically on Indigenous lands management and agricultural production.

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California Tribal Advisory Committee

Initiated in 2015, the California Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) is a forum for the Native American Tribes and tribal members in California to address natural resource issues on tribal lands. The TAC provides tribes an opportunity to voice conservation issues that are important to them directly to the State Conservationist and in doing so, help to shape the NRCS California Tribal Program. At our biannual meetings, the TAC receives updates on USDA and NRCS specific policy and programs, and can provide feedback that will be taken into account for the purpose of tribal programs management including ranking criteria, practice and practice scenario application, as well as broadening the NRCS planning process to better assist tribes. 

Tribal Conservation Advisory Committees were first authorized in the 1996 Farm Bill as advisory bodies to USDA agencies including NRCS on Tribal issues.

California Tribal Advisory Committee Documents

American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month Posters

AIAN poster-2018The USDA NRCS annually recognizes and celebrates the many different cultures to which we have the opportunity to offer our services and programs, including American Indians. November is designated as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. This provides an opportunity to make people aware of the history of American Indians and Alaska Natives and their contributions to the world.

Photo at left: Francine Tohannie’s winning artwork displayed in the poster format that will be available from NRCS to celebrate American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. (Click photo to enlarge.)

One of the ways NRCS nationally celebrates American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month is by distributing a poster created by an American Indian artist. Each year, an artist in a selected state has the opportunity to exhibit his/her talents and heritage on a national level, and Nevada was chosen as that state for 2018. Of 13 submittals from across the state from a variety of Tribal members, Francine Tohannie’s stunning artwork, titled “Burden Basket,” won the top honor and a $2,000 award.

American Indian artists from Nevada Tribes were invited to create an original painting that reflects the artist’s interpretation of American Indian culture and heritage with the title: “Mountain Islands and Sagebrush Seas,” and the theme: “Creating resilient landscapes through an understanding of heritage, culture and conservation."

AIAN poster 2018 presentation

Photo at right: (From left to right) Patti Novak-Echenique, NRCS Nevada American Indian/Alaska Native Special Emphasis Program Manager and Nevada State Rangeland Management Specialist; Francine Tohannie, winning artist; and Ray Dotson, Nevada NRCS State Conservationist display the winning artwork. (Click photo to enlarge.)

“I wanted to illustrate the beauty of Nevada mountains, sagebrush, sky and the Indian paintbrush plant by mixing vibrant hues. My painting ties into the title and theme with a traditional ‘Burden Basket,’ made and used by the Washoe, Paiute and Shoshone people,” said Tohannie, a member of the Te-Moak Shoshone from Fallon. “The painting shows the resilience of the land and what it has offered to our ancestors, that we still use and teach today. From sagebrush bark, they made clothing and shoes, houses, rope. From the willow, they made intricate baskets and utensils.”

Tohannie’s work emphasizes conservation, symbolized by the new sprouting sagebrush in the foreground of the artwork. Preservation of the landscapes and native plants are important as well. With the empty Burden Basket, she shares a call to action for all of us: “pick it up and get to work, it needs to be filled.”

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NRCS Plant Material Centers

Natural resources on tribal lands may be culturally and historically sensitive. The NRCS Plant Materials Program (PMP) provides technical assistance to federally-recognized tribes in these areas. Assistance to tribes from the Plant Materials Centers (PMC) may include: 1) collecting seed and/or plants of concern, 2) determining propagation protocols, 3) selecting for desirable attributes, and 3) developing plant establishment and maintenance guidelines. 

There are four plant materials centers serving the many bioregions of California:

Publications To Support NRCS California Tribal Programs

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Updated: 07/23/19