Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Recreation, Parks and Tourism Resources

Committee Chair

Chad D Pierskalla

Committee Co-Chair

Steve Selin

Committee Member

David Smaldone


Federal land management agencies are legally required to consult Native American tribes when administering policies that may have tribal implications. Many laws and directives regarding consultation exist, yet agreement on its practical application and management implications remain ambiguous. An ongoing consultation conundrum is occurring in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), where the US Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) has proposed to remove the grizzly bear from the Endangered Species List. Several tribal groups residing within or maintaining cultural ties to the region have contested the movement. The grizzly bear controversy has exposed larger issues implicit to consultation, such as tribal sovereignty and the overall federal-tribal relationship. The purpose of this research is to evaluate perceptions and practices of government-to-government consultation from the perspectives of tribal and Service representatives. Federal policies on consultation were reviewed using a document analysis method to determine which theoretical form of public participation they require of agencies. To understand consultation perceptions, interviews were conducted with Service and tribal officials; the transcripts were content analyzed. The results indicated several process and relational-themed barriers impeding consultation. These include financial issues, insufficient agency training, disrespect, and racial concerns. Suggestions to improve the consultation relationship posited by the respondents included increasing agency training, earlier inclusion in the decision-making process, and meeting on or near tribal lands. Based on the results of this research, coupled with findings in the public participation literature and agency best practices, an emergent model of tribal engagement is proposed. This research will help the Service improve consultations, increase trust, and continue to repair historic wounds with Native Nations.