The United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. (USET) is one of the largest inter-tribal organizations in the country. Collectively, USET represents twenty-six federally recognized Tribes at the regional and national level. Spanning from Maine, to Florida, and as far west at Texas, USET is dedicated to enhancing the development of Indian Tribes, improving the capabilities of Tribal governments and assisting in dealing effectively with public policy issues. Operating through several workgroups and committees, this organization works to serve the broader needs of Indian people such as advocating for more effective use of existing resources, providing an open and inclusive forum for sharing information and exchanging ideas and protecting invaluable cultural and natural resources on Tribal lands.

USET member Tribes recently held their semi-annual meeting at Niagara Falls, New York on May 14th-17. This meetings provided on opportunity for various USET Committees to meet face-to-face, share ideas, discuss current and future projects, and unite common interests among Tribal groups. During the meeting, the Template for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Management Options (TACCIMO) staff and I, the Forest Service liaison for the South Atlantic LCC, had the opportunity to deliver a three hour virtual workshop to the USET Natural Resources Committee. Several tribal representatives attended the workshop, including the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians, Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Seneca Nation of Indians, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

The primary goals of this workshop were threefold: to provide an informative overview on how to use the TACCIMO tool, explore possible Tribal application of the information available on the site, and identify potential avenues for future collaboration and Tribal engagement. For those of you who are unaware, the TACCIMO tool is an open source, web based tool that provides resource planners, managers and land owners with access to a searchable repository of current climate change science. Although the TACCIMO staff and I presented virtually, Serra Hoagland, an EFETAC biological scientist was able to attend the meeting in-person and acted as a local facilitator. The workshop included a climate change overview followed by an orientation of the TACCIMO tool and an interactive training module. This overview allowed Tribal participants to interact directly with the TACCIMO staff to explore specific climate-change related impacts and effects such as the projected increase in severe weather events  and the spread of invasive species such as Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrical).

The TACCIMO presentation and overview set the stage for a final presentation which highlighted a potential opportunity to foster communication efforts between adjacent tribes and federal, state, and private stakeholders and promote effective and substantive engagement with LCCs. For example, the South Atlantic LCC staff and Forest Service staff have reached out to the Catawba Indian Nation to support their potential climate science needs, identify cultural and natural resources that the Catawba value, and engage the Catawba throughout the collaborative planning process.                 

As the workshop came to a conclusion, Serra Hoagland noted that many of the tribal members who participated directly in the training were thankful for the information and outreach efforts. She noted from past meetings Tribal groups faced three imminent concerns including 1) little or no access to primary literature (peer reviewed scientific articles); 2) lack of equitable funding for climate change adaptation, mitigation and risk assessment projects; and, 3) time constraints which inhibited the  ability to participate or go after various federal opportunities. As the amount of new scientific knowledge about climate change and forest ecosystems grows almost daily, the TACCIMO tool gives Tribal natural resource managers access to a central repository of climate change literature and planning language that can be viewed in a free, exploratory environment. Although not a substitute for local knowledge, the sites mapping application tools and customized reports allow Tribal groups and resource managers’ access to management options that are relevant to their specific needs and delivered in a form that can be quickly and readily grasped by Tribal communities and leadership.

As the impacts and complexity of climate-related challenges will not likely recognize geographic or political boundaries; collaboration, exchange of knowledge and shared resources will be critical in fostering equitable agreements and leveraging limited resources. Coordinating with existing networks (such as intertribal groups and state and federal agencies) and using the TACCIMO tool to gather, evaluate, and distribute information and perspectives about climate change could be an effective way to share information and encourage engagement with LCCs.

Moving forward, we hope to build off the momentum of this workshop and pursue future collaborative opportunities for tribal engagement and participation in the development of strategies in response to anticipated climate conditions.

For a link to download a PDF version of the presentation delivered at the USET meeting, >> click here.

You can access the TACCIMO tool here.

To learn more about the United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc. >>click here.