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American Indian and Alaska Native tribes have contributed little to the causes of climate change, and yet face disproportionate risks.  Tribes have unique rights, cultures, and economies that are, or could be, vulnerable to climate change impacts. For indigenous peoples, the environmental impacts of climate change and some of the proposed solutions threaten ways of life, subsistence, lands rights, future growth, cultural survivability, and financial resources.

The Tribal Climate Change Project is a collaborative project between the University of Oregon Environmental Studies Program and the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station. The project focuses on understanding needs and opportunities for tribes in addressing climate change, examining the government-to-government relationship in a climate context and exploring the role of traditional knowledge in climate change studies, assessments and plans.

This project is part of the USDA Forest Service 2010 Coordinated Approach to Tribal Climate Change Research. Other Forest Service Research Stations engaged in this type of research include the  Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and the Forest Service Northern Research Station.

Key Research Areas

Tribal Adaptation and Mitigation Planning: Increase understanding about tribal adaptation and mitigation planning in preparing for the impacts of climate change and/or reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  This includes consideration of traditional knowledge in understanding climate change impacts and identifying culturally appropriate strategies to address climate change.

Management of Off-Reservation Resources: Increase understanding about the challenges, opportunities, and implications for federal land managers and tribes in managing off-reservation resources in the context of climate change. Build knowledge about treaty rights and federal land management obligations in the context of changing composition and distribution of culturally important off-reservation species.

Tribal Consultation in the Context of Climate Change: Examine government-to-government relationships in addressing climate change, including consultation and the trust responsibility, cross-landscape climate change assessments and tribal involvement in federal and state climate change plans.

Current Projects

Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Network
The Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Network serves as a means to exchange information on climate change policy, programs, grants and other opportunities for tribes to engage in climate change issues. The Network also provides input into the development of project resources and helps focus on the most critical areas for research and action.

Tribal Climate Change Profiles
Tribes across the United States are leading the way with innovative efforts to address climate change through adaptation and mitigation strategies. To showcase these initiatives, the Tribal Climate Change Project is developing a database of profiles that describes innovative approaches that tribes across the country are using to address climate change. These profiles include summaries of project objectives, approaches, and lessons learned. Current profiles include: Swinomish Climate Change Initiative, Nez Perce Carbon Sequestration Project, Coquille Climate Change Action Committee, Lummi Nation Renewable Energy program, and relocation issues among Alaska Native tribes.

Publications
Project investigators are engaged in developing resources and publications aimed at building knowledge about climate change initiatives among tribes throughout the United States, as well as among federal agency land managers and other non-tribal entities with an interest in working with tribes to address climate change. Current publications include a guide for tribal leaders on U.S. climate change programs, a synthesis of literature on climate change and social vulnerability, and a legal briefing on climate change impacts on Tribes’ off-reservation resources. To read more, visit:   http://tribalclimate.uoregon.edu/publications/.

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