Joshua Tree National Park at night. (Photo: Getty Images)

This National Park Has Reached a Landmark Agreement with a Local Tribe

California’s Twenty Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians will sign a co-stewardship agreement to help operate the park

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Mary Beth “Mouse” Skylis

from Backpacker

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Joshua Tree National Park and the Twenty Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians will sign a stewardship agreement to involve the tribe in the park’s management and development, beginning with a new trail connection, park officials have announced. The agreement is expected to be signed in January. 

The park and the tribe began working together about four years ago, and the initiative to improve park trails quickly attained support. By 2021, Patch reports, the tribe received a grant that would allow it to support trail construction. The first project to be targeted under the new agreement is a trail extension from Tortoise Rock Casino into the national park. 

“This will offer additional park access and more chances for visitors from around the world to be able to recreate in the Mojave Desert,” park officials said in a Facebook post. “We are grateful to have the opportunity to work with the indigenous people in this place. We pay our respect to the people past, present and emerging who have been here since time immemorial.”

The Twenty Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians historically lived throughout the Mojave Desert.  In the 1860s, the tribe settled in the Oasis of Mara, near what is now Joshua Tree.Today, the tribe is federally recognized, and supports an economy providing employment to over 700 people. The band is the first of 15 local tribes to formalize co-stewardship efforts within the Joshua Tree National Park.

Under Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who as a citizen of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo is the first Native person to serve in her post, the Interior Department has pledged to increase its cooperation with tribes in managing public lands. Last November, Haaland signed an order directing the agency to pursue co-management agreements with local tribes.

Lead Photo: Getty Images