Nation’s Tribes Asking Congress for Swift Action on Climate Legislation


WASHINGTON-Tribal leaders from around the country have come to Washington, D.C., to press their Senators and Representatives for support of federal climate legislation in 2009. Historically, tribal communities have borne the brunt of negative environmental impacts generated primarily by non-tribal activities, and are recognized by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as disproportionately impacted by the effects of global warming.

To fight global warming and preserve their ways of life, America’s tribal governments call for national legislation that results in mandatory reductions in climate change pollution, the development of renewable energy sources within a timeframe that prevents irreversible harm to public health, the economy and the environment, and includes dedicated funding for fish and wildlife conservation and restoration. The tribes also call for legislation that supports tribal efforts to lessen climate change impacts on tribal communities, lands and natural resources, and cultural traditions, and provides tribes with equal access to economic development opportunities presented by renewable energy development, energy efficiency, carbon trading mechanisms, and other mitigation strategies.

“Every day, our people are impacted by global warming and the changes to our environment,” said Jerry Pardilla, executive director of the National Tribal Environmental Council (NTEC) and member of the Penobscot Nation. “It is important for tribes to participate in national efforts to mitigate the causes of global warming and to develop adaptation strategies for the anticipated changes in our homelands.”
NTEC, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) are calling for federal climate legislation that addresses the following:

Indian tribes should be specifically referenced as sovereign partners in addressing the problems of climate change.

Indian tribes, states and local governments should be treated equally in climate legislation to the degree that each of these jurisdictions should have equal access to the same technical support and financial resources.

When referencing national and international efforts to address climate change, Indigenous peoples domestically and throughout the world should be given the status and rights recognized in the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Tribal set-asides should be established for tribes to address the disproportionate climate impacts upon their infrastructures, services, lands and resources, and traditional lifeways, and ensure their participation in green job transition training.

Tribal efforts to develop their vast renewable energy potential, obtain access to energy infrastructure, and implement energy efficiency programs should be supported through federal programmatic support and removal of barriers to implementation

As the majority of Alaska Native Villages must be relocated due to rising water levels, flooding, and erosion, sufficient federal support should be provided for their safe relocation with their free prior and informed consent. .

Appropriate weight should be given to traditional tribal knowledge of the environment in climate legislation.

NTEC, NCAI, NARF, and NWF hope that climate legislation will help tribes address the many challenges posed by a changing climate.

Bob Gruenig, National Tribal Environmental Council, (505) 242-2175
Jose Aguto, National Congress of American Indians, (202) 553-7202
Myra Wilensky, National Wildlife Federation, (303) 725-3157
Kim Gottschalk, Native American Rights Fund, (303) 775-1315

The National Tribal Environmental Council (NTEC) is comprised of 184 member tribes with a mission to enhance each tribe’s ability to protect, preserve and promote the wise management of air, land, and water for the benefit of current and future generations.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest and largest intertribal organization in the country with over 250 member tribes, serving as the major national tribal government organization, monitoring federal policy and coordinating efforts to inform federal decisions that affect tribal government interests.

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is America’s conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. NWF partners with sovereign tribal nations to solve today’s conservation challenges for future generations.

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of Native American human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

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