Indian Affairs | Branch of Fish, Wildlife, and Recreation

Branch of Fish, Wildlife, and Recreation

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Figure 1 - Viewing the north face of Divide Mountain on the Blackfeet Reservation, evidence of recent fire impacts regress among re-growth of emerging flora.

This program supports the Department’s goal of Serving Communities and the outcome goal of fulfilling Indian trust responsibilities by enabling Tribes the meaningful exercise of their treaty fishing, hunting, and gathering rights. The Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program is composed of the following five program elements.

Wildlife and Parks Program: This component of the program supports the Wildlife and Parks program at the agency or tribal level. Funding is sub-allotted to Tribes through a local priority setting process determined by the Tribe and the Bureau to fund tribal activities in the areas of fisheries, wildlife, outdoor recreation, and public use management, conservation enforcement and related fields. Activities conducted are determined by Tribes, and cover a broad array of diverse fisheries, wildlife, conservation enforcement, public use, habitat management and related programs. Tribes conduct program planning, implementation and evaluation, with Bureau functions being primarily inherently federal in nature. Tribes, through the local priority setting process, will determine any changes in annual funding and performance.

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Figure 2 - Blackfeet Tribal Biologist working on BIA Tribal Management Development Grizzly Bear Project.

Fish Hatchery Operations & Maintenance Programs: This program element provides funding to fish-producing Tribes in support of associated hatching, rearing and stocking programs. Salmon and steelhead trout released from tribal hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest benefit Indian and non-Indian commercial and sport fisheries in the United States and Canada, and help satisfy Indian subsistence and ceremonial needs. Throughout the rest of the country, recreational opportunities created by the stocking of trout, walleye and other species attract numerous sport fishermen to Indian reservations and assist in developing reservation economies. Continuing Fish Hatchery Operations projected to receive support through this program are those conducted by the Bad River, Lac Courte Oreilles, Lac du Flambeau, Red Cliff, Hoh, Quileute, Skagit Cooperative, Stillaguamish, Kalispel and Spokane.

Funding is also available for the maintenance of tribal fish hatcheries to fish-producing Tribes based on an annual ranking of maintenance project proposals received from Tribes. The ranking factors utilize procedures and criteria in the areas of health and safety, water quality compliance, economic benefits, rights protection, and resource enhancement.

Endangered Species Program: This program element funds central office coordination of Bureau responsibilities associated with Public Law 93-205, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the related protection and preservation of trust lands and resources. The program facilitates federal regulatory Bureau compliance of the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Protection Act. The program raises Bureau capacity to act in accordance with interagency regulatory requirements.

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Figure 3 - Bald Eagles on Lake Traverse Reservation, northeastern South Dakota.

Tribal Management/Development Program: The primary purpose of this program element is the management of tribal fish and game programs on Indian reservations. Tribal management activities include resource management, provision and enforcement of hunting and fishing activities on trust lands containing 1.6 million acres of natural lakes and impoundments, 15,000 miles of perennial streams and millions of acres of wildlife habitat. Contracts are executed with tribal fish and wildlife organizations and individual fish and wildlife resource Tribes throughout the country to accomplish various resource management objectives set by tribal governments. Individual Tribes have jurisdiction over hunting and fishing activities on trust lands. They administer programs that contribute significantly toward meeting the growing national demand for outdoor recreation and tourism and ensure the protection of millions of acres of habitat necessary for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plant resources.

Rights Protection Program: This program element supports the Department’s goal of Serving Communities by fulfilling Indian trust responsibilities. A portion of this program element (Water Rights Negotiation/Litigation Program) is administered within the Branch of Water Resources. Under the Rights Protection Program, Bureau field staffs provide advice and technical assistance to tribes and other agency personnel in various rights protection issues. Funds under the program are also provided to tribes under the authorities of Public Law 93-638, as amended. Bureau staff consult and cooperate with Tribes involved in negotiating or litigating their water rights; establishing or protecting tribal treaty hunting, fishing and gathering rights; addressing issues concerning trespass on tribal trust lands; protecting tribal cultural resources; natural resource damage claims; and addressing other unresolved land management issues. The functions performed by program personnel depend on the services and technical expertise required by the Tribes within the jurisdiction of the office that is not available in other programs. The staff may also be requested to assist Tribes in preparing applications for funding from the Bureau’s Attorney Fees and Litigation Support programs.


The Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) Program function is to restore Bureau and tribal natural resources that have been injured as a result of oil spills or hazardous substance releases into the environment as authorized by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). The NRDAR program staff works closely with the Tribes and other state and Federal natural resource trustees to ascertain injuries to natural resources injured as a result of oil spills or hazardous substance releases into the environment that affect tribal trust lands, Bureau facilities and natural resources retained by the tribes through treaties. Achieving actual on-the-ground restoration of injured natural resources is the primary goal of the program. The staff serves on NRDAR trustee councils, performs damage assessment and restoration functions and provides technical assistance to the Tribes.


The responsibility of this program is to develop license conditions consistent with the Secretary of the Interior's authority under the Federal Power Act for the protection and utilization of Indian reservations impacted by private hydroelectric power operations that are licensed by the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission (FERC). The conditions are primarily designed to mitigate the impacts caused by the hydroelectric power project located on an Indian reservation. The impacts include the occupation/inundation of reservation land, erosion, destruction of fisheries, water quality and harm to other trust resources. The conditions must be supported by material fact and are subject to appeal under provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and other legal challenges. Once implemented in a hydroelectric power operation license, the Bureau must monitor, implement and enforce the conditions.