In response to the increasing pace and scale of wildfire and forest health challenges, the Intertribal Timber Council (ITC) proposed the creation of “Anchor Forests,” where a tribe would convene surrounding landowners to collaboratively manage the entire landscape, across property boundaries. This emergent concept has sparked conversation but has not yet been implemented at scale. Amidst increasing movement toward both collaborative decision-making and more meaningful tribal partnerships on federal forestlands, my research asked 1) why the Anchor Forest concept emerged and how it could be used in the future, and 2) how its narratives reinforce or depart from mainstream media narratives about tribal partnerships in forest management. From my constructivist and critical research paradigm, I explored these questions through the perspectives of those closely involved in Anchor Forests and aimed to conduct research that would further the ITC’s work. Qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews and documents shows how Anchor Forests would expand spatial and temporal
scales of forest governance and management, and why tribal leadership could overcome barriers that have blocked this scale expansion in the past. Results suggest institutional and individual-level shifts are needed in federal land management agencies to enable effective cross-boundary partnerships with tribes, and Anchor Forests could serve as a conceptual tool to build momentum for these shifts. I found that media coverage of tribal forestry sometimes
portrays tribes as victims or as powerless, depending on context and framing, whereas Anchor Forest narratives depict tribes as powerful and capable. This suggests communicating Anchor Forest narratives could shift these portrayals and create a better starting place for meaningful partnerships. My research contributes to theoretical literature on tribal involvement in collaborative and cross-boundary forest management, and results will be communicated directly to the ITC and partners to support future outreach on Anchor Forests.