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Tribal conference brings environmental leaders to San Francisco

Release Date: 10/20/2010
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, 415.947.4149 Perezsullivan.margot@epa.gov

SAN FRANCISCO - Today, over 500 tribal environmental leaders representing more than 100 tribal governments from Arizona, California and Nevada are meeting with EPA officials in San Francisco to discuss environmental challenges that tribes continue to face.

“This conference, one of the largest gatherings of its kind, is a venue for tribal, state, and federal leaders and environmental professionals to share successes and apply that knowledge to the unique environmental issues facing Indian Country today,” said Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.  “I’m looking forward to this opportunity to discuss with tribal leaders how EPA can collaborate with tribes to address critical issues, such as climate change, safe drinking water, solid waste management, and air quality.”

Tribal Council Chair people in attendance include: Scott Cozart of the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians, Lucille Campa of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, Virgil Moose of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe, LaVonne Peck of the La Jolla Band of Luiseno Indians, Luther Salgado of the Cahuilla Band of Indians, Ronnie Lupe of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, LeRoy Shingoitewa of The Hopi Tribe, Elizabeth Hansen of the Redwood Valley Rancheria, Juan Venegas of the Pit River Tribe and Kyle Self of the Greenville Rancheria.  

Michelle DePass, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, will attend accompanied by the newly appointed Director of the American Indian Environment Office, JoAnn Chase.  Ms. Chase is Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Indian (also known as The Three Affiliated Tribes), born and raised on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.  She joins EPA from the American Indian Community House in New York City where she served as Executive Director.  Prior to her work at AICH, Ms. Chase served as the Executive Director for the National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest national Indian organization.  In addition, CalEPA Secretary Linda Adams, AZ Department of Environmental Quality Director Benjamin Grumbles, and Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Director Colleen Cripps will also attend.  

Tribal lands in the Pacific Southwest range from small allotments of a few acres to the Navajo Nation, the largest tribal territory in the country. More than 28% of these native homes are at or below the poverty level, over 21% lack access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and open dumps continue to be a problem, with over 1,300 found on tribal lands.

This year, the EPA awarded more than $76 million in grants for environmental protection projects to tribes in California, Arizona and Nevada.  Funding from the EPA will be used to develop tribal environmental programs, build water and sewage treatment systems, and implement air pollution control, solid waste management, watershed monitoring and restoration projects.  Today, more than 130 of the 147 federally recognized Pacific Southwest tribes have an environmental program, up from just 15 a decade ago.  

This year’s conference will cover many pressing topics, including climate change, mining impacts, solid waste management, air and water quality, and sustainable development.  The conference builds off of the work funded in Indian Country by the agency.  Since the passage of EPA’s Indian Policy in 1984, funding from EPA supports environmental capacity building, construction of drinking water and sanitation systems, monitoring and protection of air, lands, and watersheds, and other activities that protect and improve the health of tribal people and the environment in Indian Country.

For more information about the U.S. EPA Pacific Southwest Tribal Program Office, please go to
http://www.epa.gov/region9/tribal

For more information about the EPA/Tribal Conference, co-hosted by the Soboba Band of Luiseņo Indians, please go to
http://www.soboba-nsn.gov/epa_conference/