Much of the WWNF lie within the aboriginal territory of the Nez Perce Tribe. In the United States’ 1855 Treaty with the Nez Perce, the Tribe ceded much of its territory to the United States in exchange for a reservation that was to serve as a permanent homeland. The Tribe also reserved particular rights. One of these reserved rights includes “pasturing their horses and cattle upon open and unclaimed land.” This encompasses public lands, including portions of the WWNF lands.
The WWNF and the Nez Perce Tribe have been working together to facilitate annual agreements which address Tribal grazing and natural resource issues. “It’s essential that the Forest Service continues to work closely with the Nez Perce Tribe to develop this agreement,” said Wallowa Valley District Ranger Ken Gebhardt. “This also helps the Forest Service minimize the potential for conflict for any of our current grazing permittees,” continued Gebhardt, “It is also important that we continue to work closely with all of our permittees to ensure that grazing continues to be an integral part of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.”
Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Silas Whitman stated, “This is a positive relationship. The Tribe and the Forest Service are working on a government to government basis to ensure that Nez Perce activities reserved under treaty and protected by the U.S. Constitution, are available to Nez Perce tribal members in the present day. And this is occurring in a cooperative way.”
The WWNF has the largest grazing program in Region 6 of the Forest Service and currently provides forage for approximately 23,800 head of cattle and 3,300 head of sheep; with 93 term grazing permits issued on 110 grazing allotments.