2006 Annual Priorities Report: Tribal Environmental Protection
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
View the Updated Region 10 Environmental Strategy
For the 42 Tribes with reservation and trust land within the borders of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, a stronger legal and economic base has allowed some of the Tribal governments to develop effective environmental protection programs. However, much work remains to address ongoing threats to health and natural resources. Solid and hazardous waste, unsafe drinking water, habitat and contamination threats to fish and seafood, and air quality concerns lead the list of Pacific Northwest concerns. As in Alaska, finding appropriate approaches and leveraging available resources are critical elements for long-term success.
Description of the Challenge…
Why is it a priority?
There are 271 federally recognized Tribal governments in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Region 10 serves more than 47% of the total number of Tribes within the United States. The environmental health challenges facing Tribes in Region 10 are as complex and unique as the Tribes themselves.
For the 229 Alaska Native Villages, health and resource issues are basic and severe. Solid waste disposal, sanitation, and contaminated surface waters lead the list of problems.Beyond these immediate threats to human health, climate change and pollution jeopardize the availability and safety of subsistence foods so critical to both the health and culture of Tribal members. The limited jurisdictional authority and scarce economic resources of most Tribal governments in Alaska, combined with the logistical challenges posed by climate and geography, complicates the task of finding and applying appropriate solutions to these pressing issues.
Strategy and Approach…
How do we anticipate achieving our desired goals and objectives?
Recognizing its government-togovernment relationship and its trust responsibility to each of these 271 Tribes, EPA Region 10 addresses environmental protection needs through a number of complementary routes. Where necessary, the Region exercises federal authority directly over businesses operating in Indian Country. At the same time, it supports Tribes’ growing capacity to implement their own programs. Finally, the Region also fosters multipartner collaborative approaches where appropriate.
Current projects illustrating the use of all three approaches include:
Goals and Objectives…
What are the desired long-term outcomes?
- Our goal in this priority is to ensure that the natural resources on which tribal communities rely for their physical, cultural and economic well-being are fully protected
- Respect and support the sovereignty of Tribes as they develop and operate their own environmental programs, or choose to partner with other entities to manage natural resources.
Because of an air stagnation and build up of pollutants, EPA in coordination with Yakima Regional Clean Air Authority both issued a burn ban for the area on November 17, 2005. Actions were taken to reduce emissions and air quality began to improve.
Who else is working in this area?
EPA Region 10’s primary partners in the protection of Tribal health and resources are of course the 271 Tribal governments themselves. In addition to formal government-togovernment consultation, we engage in joint planning through workgroups, Regional Tribal Operations Committee meetings, the annual Tribal Leaders Summit, and discussions held in conjunction with conferences and trainings. We also share information about work that we do with other partners.
EPA and Tribes also work cooperatively with numerous organizations to create and implement workable approaches to environmental protection. A variety of other federal agencies share trust responsibility with EPA, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Army Corp of Engineers, and Forest Service. In many instances, state and local governments play an important role in managing resources of interest to Tribes. Finally, non-governmental organizations, such as watershed councils and community redevelopment associations contribute to planning and management efforts. The more EPA Region 10 is able to identify and coordinate with all appropriate partners to collaboratively pursue solutions to shared environmental problems, the more effective each partner’s contributions become. While each partner plays a valuable role, the Region remains mindful that the most appropriate advocates for Tribal interests are the Tribal governments themselves.
- The Federal Air Rules for Reservations, which became effective in June of 2005, put into place for the first time federally-enforceable air quality regulations applicable to 39 reservations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. This direct implementation effort involves significant partnering with Northwest Tribes, who participate in education and outreach, monitoring, and enforcement. In these roles, partner Tribes also build capacity to assume the parts of an air quality management program they choose,
- Region 10 is developing technical tools, such as fish consumption risk evaluators and watershed maps with highlighted areas of Tribal interest, to assist Tribes in either proposing approvable water quality standards or more effectively advocating for stronger measures protecting aquatic resources,
- The Region 10 Integrated Waste Management Strategy combines the efforts of EPA, Tribes, and other federal agencies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian Health Service, and the Department Housing and Urban Development. This coordinated approach promises notable results in closing and cleaning up open dumps, increasing waste minimization and pollution prevention, and decreasing the health hazards from improperly managed solid and hazardous waste (toxics inhalation, ground water contamination, and contamination of subsistence foods),
- Region 10 is issuing inspector credentials to Tribal staff trained by EPA to enforce a variety of the laws the Agency implements within Indian Country. Having Tribal staff conducting education and enforcement activities within their own jurisdictions not only supports Tribal sovereignty and builds Tribal capacity, but also more effectively educates tribal communities and increases compliance levels.
Measures of Success…
How will we know we have achieved success?
- All Tribal governments will have assessed and prioritized their environmental concerns, and will have developed programs or partnerships to address them,
- Air quality outdoors and within Tribal homes will be improved, reducing the incidence of respiratory illness within tribal communities,
- Traditional resources and subsistence foods will remain available to and be safe for consumption by Tribal members,
- All homes within Tribal communities will have access to safe drinking water,
Foothills Disposal Site, March 2005
- Baseline data on contaminants in traditional and subsistence foods will be complete, and used to set appropriate standards and measure progress in decreasing concentrations of known pollutants,
- All solid waste disposal within Tribal communities will be handled in a safe and legal manner through integrated waste management plans that emphasize prevention.
- Sub-standard sanitation methods in Alaska Native Villages will have been replaced with safe, appropriate technologies, reducing illness and water contamination.