On January 12, 2017, President Obama issued a memorandum for the heads of federal departments and agencies on “Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Our National Parks, National Forests, and Other Public Lands and Waters.” 82 Fed. Reg. 6179 (Jan. 19, 2017), available at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-01-19/pdf/2017-01383.pdf. The agencies that are covered by this memorandum are those that manage federal public lands and waters: the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the Department of Commerce, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works (Army Corps of Engineers). As stated in the memorandum, its purpose is:
[T]o ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to experience and enjoy our public lands and waters, that all segments of the population have the chance to engage in decisions about how our lands and waters are managed, and that our Federal workforce–not just the sites it manages–is drawn from the rich range of the diversity in our Nation.
Section 1 of the memorandum addresses diversity and inclusion in the federal workforce. Each covered agency is directed to carry out a number of activities, consistent with existing legal authorities, to “prioritize building a more diverse and inclusive Federal workforce reflective of our Nation and its citizens.” Obviously, agencies will be constrained by the hiring freeze imposed by President Trump’s memorandum of January 23, 2017. 82 Fed. Reg. 8493 (Jan. 25, 2017), available at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-01-25/pdf/2017-01842.pdf. Nevertheless, many of the activities set out in section 1 address matters other than initial hiring, such as taking steps to enhance opportunities for professional development and upward mobility.
Section 2, “Enhancing Opportunities for all Americans to Experience Public Lands and Waters,” directs each covered agency to develop an action plan to:
1) improve access for diverse populations–particularly for minority, low-income, and disabled populations and tribal communities–to experience and enjoy our Federal lands and waters, and
2) address barriers to their participation in the protection and management of important historic, cultural, or natural areas.
In developing their action plans, covered agencies are encouraged to draw on external perspectives. The memorandum suggests several kinds of activities that could be included in agency action plans, such as conducting “active outreach” to diverse populations, including tribal communities. Another suggested activity is to forge “new partnerships with State, local, tribal, private, and non-profit partners to expand access for diverse populations, particularly those in the immediate vicinity of a protected area.” Similarly, agencies are encouraged to “increase opportunities for diverse populations to provide input and recommendations on protecting, improving access to, or otherwise managing important historic, cultural, or natural areas.”
Tribes who are concerned regarding access for tribal members to particular places on public lands may want to initiate communication with the relevant land-management agencies and express interest in providing input. In contacting these land-management agencies, tribes may want to make reference to relevant agency policies on relations with tribes, such as Secretarial Order 3342 titled “Identifying Opportunities for Cooperative and Collaborative Partnerships with Federally Recognized Indian Tribes in the Management of Federal Lands and Resources” (see our General Memorandum 16-071 of October. 31, 2016); the revised regulations of the National Park Service on gathering plants or plant parts by federally recognized Indian tribes for traditional purposes, 81 Fed. Reg. 45024 (July 12, 2016) (see our General Memorandum 16-044 of July 12, 2016); and the regulations of the Forest Service on providing forest products to tribes for traditional and cultural purposes. 81 Fed. Reg. 65891 (see our General Memorandum 16-063 of October 20, 2016).
Please let us know if we may provide additional information or assistance regarding the Presidential memorandum on promoting diversity and inclusion in our national public lands.