The Tulalip Tribes recently honored retiring regional Forest Service Supervisor Rob Iwamoto for his work to protect tribal treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
“Rob is a great listener,” said Libby Halpin Nelson, environmental policy analyst for the Treaty Rights Office of the Natural Resources Department of the Tulalip Tribes, who serves as a liaison to the U.S. Forest Service. “The Tribes were using these forest for their cedar already, but he helped foster better communication and partnership in the forests’ stewardship between the Forest Service and the Tribes, who have a lot in common interests. They both want to see these resources sustained.”
Tulalip Tribal Chair Mel Sheldon Jr. explained that what’s now the managed as the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is within traditional territories where the Tribes and their ancestors have been hunted, fished and gathered herbs, medicines and food, for ceremonial and spiritual purposes, for thousands of years. He praised Iwamoto for working to understand the Tribes’ treaty rights on those lands, and to assist in translating them into actions that will aid the Tribes in continuing their culture.
“We’ve been very honored to work with you,” Sheldon said. “You’ve respected our government, and even when faced with tough problems, you’ve always found solutions to them. I wish you weren’t retiring, because you’re leaving behind big shoes to fill, but you’ve also left us with some great memories.”
Among the achievements during Iwamoto’s tenure was the development of a Memorandum of Agreement, between the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service, to improve communications and work together to steward the resources and places of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest that are vital to the Tribes’ culture. This came after Iwamoto and his staff took the Tribes up on their invitation to meet the Tribes’ Natural and Cultural Resources staff in 2005, to hear their ideas and concerns regarding the Forest Service’s management of the National Forest lands.