Kaibab NF employee honored for innovative tribal partnerships

Portrait of Mike Lyndon in uniform.
Mike Lyndon, Kaibab National Forest's tribal relations program manager, received the Regional Forester's Partnership and Engagement Award for the Southwestern Region. USDA Forest Service photo.

NEW MEXICO—Mike Lyndon, Kaibab National Forest's tribal relations program manager, was the recipient of the Regional Forester's Partnership and Engagement Award for the Southwestern Region. The award recognizes "effectively bridging the efforts of the Forest Service through collaboration with partners" and overcoming barriers "through valuable partnership agreements and innovative leadership," according to the nomination guidelines.

"I feel like I accepted the award on behalf of all of the Kaibab employees who work to develop and maintain our many partnerships with tribes," said Lyndon. "Strong relationships with tribes lead to better forest management and more opportunities for our agency to serve our neighboring communities."

The list of Lyndon's accomplishments as part of his nomination was extensive, but several highlights emerged. One such highlight was Lyndon's work in 2018 to bring the Kaibab and Tonto national forests' tribal relations programs together to partner with Northern Arizona University's Landscape Conservation Initiative. Lyndon and the project partners worked to develop a grant through the Forest Service
Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program. 

The grant provides for a multi-year partnership to work with tribes on the identification and management of traditionally important plant resources by utilizing citizen scientists to collect data on high-value plant species. 

Lyndon also invited Hopi tribal leaders to join Kaibab National Forest managers in long-term monitoring of prescribed burn areas. This monitoring indicated that reintroduction of fire to the ecosystem is benefiting populations of traditionally important plants and increasing their availability for traditional use.

Lyndon used partnerships to build programs that connect tribal youth with public lands as well as creating avenues for them to pursue employment with the Forest Service. He developed the Hopi Waters for Life Program in order to conduct collaborative spring restoration projects on the forest. Not only does this work help protect important waters, but it also highlights the ecological importance of natural springs as well as their cultural significance to tribes. 

Lyndon also facilitated partnerships with the Hopi Tribe’s Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act office and Southern Utah University’s Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative to provide Native American youth with opportunities to learn about careers in natural resources.