Interior Department announces funding for tribal communities to address climate change

By: - April 20, 2022 5:00 am

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Tribal nations across the country have the opportunity to receive funding to address the unique impacts climate change has within their communities.

“As the effects of climate change continue to intensify, Indigenous communities are facing unique climate-related challenges that pose existential threats to Tribal economies, infrastructure, lives, and livelihoods,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

The Department of Interior announced this month that it will invest $46 million in funding for tribal communities as part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience Program.


And it will support collaborative and community-led planning, relocation expenses, infrastructure investments, and other forms of assistance to Tribal communities, according to a news release.

“Coastal communities are facing flooding, erosion, permafrost subsidence, sea-level rise, and storm surges, while inland communities are facing worsening drought and extreme heat,” Haaland said. “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s historic investments in Tribal communities will help bolster community resilience, replace aging infrastructure, and provide support needed for climate-related community-driven relocation and adaptation.”

Tribes and tribal organizations will be able to submit proposals to the program in 13 different categories related to climate adaptation; ocean and coastal management; relocation, managed retreat or protect-in-place; and internships and youth engagement.

In 2021, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Tribal Climate Resilience Program provided more than $13 million in funding for 135 awards.

Funding for the 2022 program was made available from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the fiscal year 2022 appropriations to the Department of the Interior.

“Funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is essential to advancing the all-of-government approach to supporting and empowering Tribal communities as they simultaneously face environmental impacts to physical, cultural, and subsistence-based infrastructure,” Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland said in a press release. 

The Department of Interior is now accepting proposals from tribes and tribal organizations to participate in the BIA’s Tribal Climate Resilience Program. 

According to the department, the program supports tribes as they prepare for climate change impacts on tribal treaty and trust resources, economies, regenerative agriculture and food sovereignty, conservation practices, infrastructure, and human health and safety.

BIA spokesperson Joshua Barnet said that the program’s funding opportunity this year is particularly noteworthy because it includes four new categories of funding to incorporate Indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge and support climate-related community-driven relocation and adaptation. 

“For the first time, we are able to not only fund planning, training, and capacity building; but we are able to add in implementation funding,” Barnett said in an email to the Arizona Mirror. “Tribes across the country can benefit from this funding for technical and financial assistance, access to scientific resources, and educational opportunities.”

Funding is made available for project proposals that support tribal climate resilience as tribes incorporate science, including Indigenous and traditional ecological knowledge, Indigenous languages and technical information.

The program was established in 2011 to enable climate considerations to be incorporated into Tribal resource management planning and decision-making, according to the BIA website.

Since 2011, the Tribal Climate Resilience Program has awarded more than $74 million to tribes and organizations. 

“These funds are part of an ongoing commitment to support tribal communities as we work together to build climate resilience,” Barnett said. “To date, the program has funded more than 250 tribal adaptation plans, vulnerability assessments, and risk assessments.”

For more information about the BIA”s annual awards program, visit the BIA website and search for the Tribal Climate Resilience Program.

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Shondiin Silversmith, AZ Mirror
Shondiin Silversmith, AZ Mirror

Shondiin Silversmith is an award-winning Native journalist based on the Navajo Nation. Silversmith has covered Indigenous communities for more than 10 years, and covers Arizona's 22 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations, as well as national and international Indigenous issues. Her digital, print and audio stories have been published by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic, Navajo Times, The GroundTruth Project and PRX's "The World." Silversmith earned her master's degree in journalism and mass communication in Boston before moving back to Arizona to continue reporting stories on Indigenous communities. She is a member of the Native American Journalist Association and has made it a priority in her career to advocate, pitch and develop stories surrounding Indigenous communities in the newsrooms she works in.