Gluesenkamp Perez, Bipartisan Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Empower Tribal Nations in the Face of Environmental Threats

Apr 08, 2024

Last week, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), along with Reps. Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Mike Simpson (ID-02) introduced the bipartisan Tribal Environmental Risk and Resilience (TERRA) Act to streamline the process for Tribal Nations to respond to environmental threats, including extreme weather events, natural disasters, and other climate-induced challenges.

The TERRA Act proposes an innovative inter-agency framework within the Department of the Interior (DOI) to coordinate and facilitate comprehensive environmental resiliency and relocation efforts for Tribal Nations threatened by climate impacts. This initiative is intended to mark a transformative approach, replacing the existing fragmented and bureaucratic system with a cohesive, Tribal-centric model.

Central to the TERRA Act is the establishment of a streamlined process for Tribal Nations to collaborate with the DOI in developing comprehensive Plans that integrate federal resources tailored to each Tribe’s specific needs. This approach is intended not only to respect Tribal sovereignty but also to significantly reduce administrative burdens, allowing for more efficient and effective mitigation and relocation efforts.

“As Tribal communities are disproportionately impacted by worsening extreme weather events, it’s important they can access the federal funding they need to build resiliency and address infrastructure challenges. When I visited the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, I saw firsthand the impacts of sea level rise and their efforts to relocate their community to higher ground,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “Currently, federal grant resources are scattered and requirements are inconsistent – and the bipartisan TERRA Act will streamline Tribes’ access to these vital funding opportunities.”

“Tribal communities are on the frontline of the climate crisis, facing threats that jeopardize their safety, cultural heritage, and way of life. It is imperative that the federal government provides streamlined, effective support for these communities to adapt and thrive,” said Rep. Kilmer. “The TERRA Act embodies a commitment to respecting Tribal sovereignty while enhancing their resilience against the harsh realities of our changing climate.”

“Our Tribal communities deserve the necessary support and resources to safeguard their people and lands from the impact of natural disasters,” said Rep. Simpson. “We must prioritize and streamline federal assistance in the face of devastating events to protect their ancestral lands and cultural heritage and sustain their way of life. As Chairman of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, I am proud to cosponsor this legislation and continue the work to uphold our commitment to Tribal nations.”

“The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) proudly supports the Tribal Environmental Resiliency Resources Act (TERRA Act) and applauds its introduction,” said Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. “Tribes throughout Indian Country, including ATNI member Tribes in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Northern California, and Alaska, are confronting the impacts of climate change without a roadmap. ATNI has developed its own Climate Resiliency Program to address this gap and promote the goals of protecting Tribal health, safety, and welfare, and preserving Tribal cultural and natural resources. The TERRA Act builds upon these efforts by providing a federal navigational tool and a path to comprehensive climate solutions Tribes can customize to their communities and implement themselves.”

The TERRA Act is endorsed by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI), Alaska Native Health Board, DOI Self-Governance Tribes, National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), National Indian Health Board (NIHB), Passamaquoddy Tribe, Pleasant Point Tribal Government, Shoalwater Bay Tribe, and United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereign Protection Fund (USET SPF).

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