Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy signed the EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples, reinforcing the agency’s commitment to work with tribes on a government-to-government basis when issues of environmental justice arise.
“All tribal and indigenous communities deserve environmental and public health protection. Through this agreement, we are reinforcing our commitment to tribal communities, especially in addressing issues of Environmental Justice,” said Administrator McCarthy. “We know that tribes are uniquely impacted by a changing climate, which highlights the importance of this agreement and other agency actions, including funding research through the STAR Tribal health grants.”
Over the past 20 years, the agency has made substantial progress in developing both its tribal and environmental justice programs. Building on EPA’s Plan EJ 2014, the policy integrates 17 environmental justice and civil rights principles. The plan also identifies existing informational and resource tools to support EPA in its endeavor to make indigenous regions environmentally safe. This policy, started in 2011, was developed through tribal government consultations, meetings with state and tribal organizations and three public comment periods engaging indigenous communities and other stakeholders. More information on:
EPA Policy on Environmental Justice for Working with Federally Recognized Tribes and Indigenous Peoples
Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn has announced an extension of the public comment period and additional tribal consultations and public meetings on proposed regulations to reform the process by which Interior formally and officially recognizes Indian tribes. Due to significant public comments and interest, the comment period deadline has been extended by 60 days. Two additional tribal consultations will be held via teleconference on August 18th and 20thfor tribal leaders, their representatives and staff. Two additional public meetings will be held via teleconference on September 3rd and 5th. Written comments may now be submitted through September 30, 2014. The Office of Indian Affairs has established a website, where the public can access the proposed rule, a frequently asked questions (FAQs) document, and other information at: http://www.bia.gov/WhoWeAre/AS-IA/ORM/83revise/index.htm
The American Indian Environmental Office is accepting applications for the 2014-2015 Tribal ecoAmbassadors Program, which funds research at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to address environmental and health issues affecting their communities. EPA’s Tribal ecoAmbassadors program helps tribal college professors, students and community members bring environmental improvements to their schools and neighborhoods.
Applications are being accepted through July 31 from TCU professors who wish to establish independent study courses with tribal students on issues including but not limited to climate change, air quality, water quality, and waste management. Selected Tribal EcoAmbassadors will each receive a grant and will be responsible for recruiting qualified students, participating in training sessions led by EPA, producing a report that outlines research, results, and proposed solutions to the chosen topic, and presenting their research at a future meeting attended by both EPA and tribes.
Application: Tribal ecoAmbassador Program Accepting Applications (PDF) (6 pp, 324K, About PDF)
To find out about current and previous Tribal ecoAmbassadors visit http://www.epa.gov/ecoambassadors/tribal/.
In the Southwest, the decade of 2001-10 has been warmer than any of the previous 10 decades of the 20th century, with greater temperature increases during spring and summer, decreases in number of cold waves, and increases in number of heat waves.Since 1994, there has been an overall drought coupled with brief periods of wetness. During the past 2,000 years, there have been droughts more severe and longer than droughts in modern times. It is possible that the relative wetness of the previous century could have been an anomaly. Rising temperatures, prolonged drought, increases in extreme weather events, and ecosystem changes have the potential to significantly alter the 27,000 square miles of Navajo Nation reservation lands. More than 170,000 people live in this arid region about the size of West Virginia.
The new report Considerations for Climate Change and Variability Adaptation on the Navajo Nation provides foundational information for planning for anticipated and proven challenges from climatic shifts on the Navajo Reservation. The report highlights potential and actual climate changes occurring in the Southwest and Four Corners region and presents an example of an adaptation planning and implementation process, applicable to any group facing disruption. Read the report here. (pdf)
On January 28, 2014, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker determined a commercial fishery failure for the Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery in Washington State. The fishery resource disaster was caused by the low return of sockeye salmon to the Fraser River which resulted in subsequent closure of the fishery for the 2013 fishing season. The closure resulted in significant revenue losses for tribal and non-tribal fishermen. The full press release may be viewed at: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2014/20140127_fraserriver.html
On November 13, 2013, NOAA announced the Final Tribal Consultation Handbook titled
“NOAA Procedures for Government-to-Government Consultation With Federally Recognized Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Corporations.” This Handbook is intended to improve coordination and consultation with Indian tribal governments. It will assist NOAA, including its regional and field staff, in conducting effective government-to-government consultations and fulfill NOAA’s obligations under E.O. 13175 and Department Administrative Order 218-8 on Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, and the Department of Commerce Tribal Consultation and Coordination Policy.
On June 24, 2013, NOAA published a notice and requested comments on a draft “NOAA Procedures for Government-to-Government Consultation with Federally Recognized Indian Tribes” in the Federal Register. In response, NOAA received letters from 10 different entities, with approximately 25 unique comments. A summary of comments received and NOAA’s responses to those comments will be published this week in the Federal Register.
In addition, this year NOAA has:
• Announced a NOAA Tribal Liaison—Linda Belton;
• Announced a Tribal Liaison for each Line Office with in NOAA which
are listed in the Handbook;
• Established a Tribal Working Group;
• Developed an external websites for all Tribal information;
• NOAA has meetings on continual basis both regionally and nationally
with tribal leaders and commissions;
• Developing internal training, tracking and assistance for our employees; and
• Highlighted the importance of Tribal consultation across the Agency.