The government is us; we are the government, you and I. -Theodore Roosevelt

2008 North American Wildlife Policy Conference - Federal, State, and Tribal Coordination

Working Draft prepared by the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy


We believe that the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation can only be sustained with effective collaboration between federal, state, and tribal wildlife resource agencies. Wildlife conservation efforts aimed at managing populations, habitat, and people must be coordinated to achieve landscape-scale goals. Although it is most apparent in addressing migratory species, interstate fishery resources, and other federal trust species, the importance of coordination is also evident in the management of resident species and/or populations that cross state boundaries or reside on federal public land. Federal, state, and tribal land management plans and actions should be developed in concert because of the proximity of these lands to one another and because actions taken on one governmental entity’s land may have an impact on wildlife and habitat occurring on the same range and/or habitat type. Although we recognize that some level of collaboration and coordination exists today, it is apparent that improvement is necessary to meet the fish and wildlife conservation challenges of tomorrow. 


We have established some practical goals to improve the level of coordination that currently exists. Although federal agencies are mandated to analyze environmental impacts associated with land management decisions, they are not required to analyze the effects of their actions on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. We believe that is an achievable goal. Routine communication must be established among and throughout federal, state, and tribal wildlife resource agencies. Collaborative processes for federal land-management planning should be enhanced among and throughout federal, state and tribal wildlife resource agencies. Collaborative processes between state agencies and the federal land management agencies that occur within their state borders should be established to set wildlife population objectives and guide federal land management activities. Federal, state, and/or tribal landscape-scale habitat management projects should be encouraged within and across state borders to improve wildlife habitat, especially on those multiple-use federal lands impacted largely by a singular use. Collaborative processes are necessary to enhance hunter access to and hunting opportunity on federal public  lands.


Although we recognize that some collaboration currently exists, we know that there are impediments that must be addressed to maximize collaboration and achieve our goals. Some federal, state, and tribal agencies are unaware of existing opportunities to collaborate. Even though various cooperative agreements and memoranda of understanding exist, at the field level, they often collect dust on bookshelves and in filing cabinets. Irregular and somewhat voluntary meetings occur among federal, state, and/or tribal agencies regarding land management planning activities and wildlife population objectives. Often state and tribal agencies lack the capacity and knowledge to fully engage in federal planning activities. Even though state agencies may become involved in federal agency planning processes in a “cooperating agency” status, not all elect this approach. Because the federal planning process is a lengthy and complicated process, often times, states and tribes are unaware of status of these planning  efforts.

The impediments continue and occur at the federal, state, and tribal level. No one level of government is fully at fault. Federal land-management agencies may not incorporate state or tribal wildlife and habitat objectives into their land-management plans. Federal agencies often consider the comments of state wildlife agencies as just another public comment as opposed to professional judgment and recommendations from a cooperating/partnering agency with its own set of statutory authorities. States and tribes may lack the dedicated resources to contribute to the federal planning process. Even if they do become engaged, states often present conflicting input to the decision-making process due to conflicts within the state government itself. Wildlife resources agencies may provide different comments than their own governor’s office, the state’s Department of Agriculture, or other state agencies with resource-management authority. Federal agencies are forced to try to reconcile these conflicting recommendations.


The lack of collaborative involvement of federal, state, and tribal wildlife agencies to address the aforementioned impediments and achieve the stated goals will lead to wasted time and money; miscommunication; distrust; counterproductive, redundant and/or conflicting efforts; and therefore, ineffective conservation efforts at each level of government. Finite financial resources, staff, and time will not be used effectively to deliver wildlife conservation to the citizens of the nation. Given the nation’s substantive and financial challenges facing wildlife conservation, the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation will be impaired and may become imperiled. However, we have the opportunity to address these challenges in the coming years. We believe that collaborative processes exist and can be enhanced to improve the coordination among federal, state, and tribal resource agencies, thereby helping to sustain the Model of Wildlife Conservation that is the envy of the world.



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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt