Growing the tribal forestry workforce

A new partnership focuses on creating a path for tribal members interested in careers in forestry.

For many Tribes, forests are both a cultural and economic resource. Forests are places to recreate and practice traditions; they are classrooms, livelihoods, and jobs. While opportunities in tribal forestry are growing, the current natural resource management workforce is aging, highlighting the need for training and engaging current and future generations in the sector.

In Fall 2018, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) Economic Development Corporation, United South and Eastern Tribes, Heritage University, Intertribal Timber Council (ITC), and Ecotrust began a joint, collaborative project, Growing the Tribal Forestry Workforce in the PNW and Beyond. The project brings together partners with similar goals and expertise in economic, natural resource management, research, and education fields to collaborate on ways to address the tribal forestry and green infrastructure workforce need.

Green infrastructure incorporates both the natural environment and engineered systems to provide clean water, conserve ecosystem values and functions, and improve the quality of life for people and wildlife. Tribes have engaged in many green infrastructure projects including tribal housing, community gardens, rainwater harvesting, bioswales, health clinics, permeable surfaces, recycling, composting, and water filtration systems. While the partnership’s primary focus is on tribal forestry, the project seeks to identify potential opportunities to collaborate across departments and link tribal forestry resources to green infrastructure projects.

The project is an implementation of the ITC strategic workforce plan. The Council identified communication as a direct challenge in recruitment and retention of tribal forestry staff. The project seeks to address this challenge in three phases:

  1. A survey: To identify employment and training opportunities with tribal projects in forestry and green infrastructure fields
  2. An assessment: Ways to improve communication, outreach, and recruitment practices for tribal projects in these fields
  3. Funding jobs and internships: 3-5 employment or internship opportunities with tribal projects indicated from the survey and identify additional funding sources

We are currently in the first phase of the project. Together with our project partners, we surveyed tribal members and staff, and are now synthesizing the information gathered, conducting follow up interviews, and coordinating site visits.

We encourage individuals and organizations who wish to offer support and collaboration with Tribes in forestry and green infrastructure projects, jobs, and training to reach out to the project coordinator, Stephanie Cowherd directly at