OOS 30-6 - The role of tribes in off-reservation watershed planning and management: A nascent programmatic approach in California

Wednesday, August 8, 2012: 3:20 PM
A107, Oregon Convention Center
Chuck Striplen, Associate Environmental Scientist, University of California, Berkeley/San Francisco Estuary Institute

           In California, 109 federally recognized tribes currently possess less than 2% of their original lands. Many Tribes remain landless, without federal recognition, and/or possess limited capacity or authority to engage in watershed-level planning and resource protection. There now exists a significant infrastructure dedicated to building Tribal capacity for recognized tribes to manage and regulate the environmental resources and challenges on their own lands – however, off-reservation lands still retain important cultural resources, cemeteries, sacred places, and important modern and historic gathering areas. Land use decisions made and implemented outside reservations often either directly impact important cultural resources – or create conditions whereby the value or integrity of those resources are compromised over time.  The existing regulatory mechanisms designed to protect important cultural resources from destruction or impairment (e.g. NHPA, NAGPRA, NEPA/CEQA, etc.), tend to define “cultural resources” narrowly, provide limited enforcement mechanisms, and often functionally preclude the involvement of poorly resourced Tribal entities. Many of these mechanisms are also reactive in nature, providing for Tribal input relatively late in the planning process, and often relegate that input to a fairly narrow breadth of topical areas. In addition, none of these measures provides a platform to engage proactively Tribes on a broader suite of related topics, including but not limited to Tribal knowledge of natural resource management.


           This presentation will describe a new initiative emerging from the San Francisco Estuary Institute, a non-profit environmental research organization based in Richmond, CA, in collaboration with a number of tribes and agencies, whereby this gap in representation is being addressed in the context of new opportunities in the application of State and Federal watershed regulation and mitigation. Through this approach, we are addressing two key gaps that currently exist in watershed-level planning: 1) historical ecology – or – determining the pre-EuroAmerican modification form and function of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and 2) through tribal collaboration and primary research, assess the role of native management and maintenance of those same systems. Significant advances have already been made in changing the culture of local agencies toward embracing these concepts, and contextualizing them in existing planning processes, such as advance mitigation planning.