|The goals and objectives of the project include data collection and developing a Climate Change Adaptation & Resiliency Plan (“the Plan”) in close collaboration with an assembled body of Community stakeholders; coordinating and hosting educational workshops; and utilizing collected data and traditional knowledge to develop the Plan, which will eventually contain strategies and actions to create a more resilient Community which is able to cope with the detrimental effects of climate change.
The Plan is a comprehensive document that contains various climatic data, climate change impacts, vulnerabilities, strategies, and actions for how the Community will adapt to a changing climate and its impacts. This comprehensive plan is now in its final stages of review. The Tribe plans to circulated the Plan internally during the next few months before making the Plan available for public consumption later in 2019.
The Plan includes the following:
· Determining the current and projected impacts of climate change on the Community, including impacts on the local environment, agriculture, water resources, air quality, water quality, human health, and cultural resources;
· Determining the vulnerabilities of the Community to the current and projected effects of climate change, and prioritizing key areas for development of adaptation strategies;
· Developing appropriate policies and goals for addressing the effects of climate change on the Community;
· Developing potential programmatic and/or regulatory actions and changes consistent with said policies and goals as appropriate to address the effects of climate change.
Although addressing climate change is an ongoing project, the Community has already taken action to help jumpstart the process.
First, the GRIC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has hosted several climate change workshops in partnership with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP), to build the foundation of the planning process. During the workshops, GRIC Community Members, elders, youth, and resource managers shared their knowledge, observations, and experiences related to a changing climate. The workshops included presentations where speakers discussed the evidence of climate change, its causes, and its impacts. The workshops also included activities and discussions in which the GRIC DEQ gathered Community input on climate-related experiences and concerns, ideas for adapting to climate change, and strategies to engage more Community Members in the adaptation process.
Additionally, a climate profile was developed through partnership – compiled by the University of Arizona’s Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions, Native Nations Climate Adaptation Program, and Climate Assessment for the Southwest with funding from the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environmental and Social Justice. This climate profile was created for the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) in central Arizona using available current and historic weather data and computer model projections of future climate.
The climate profile provides:
· information that summarizes what the climate at GRIC has been like since around 1900 and identifies recent trends in temperatures;
· background information on climate change trends in the United States and Arizona;
· projections of possible changes in Arizona’s climate (including GRIC);
· a discussion about why the climate is changing and possible impacts; and
· general information on climate adaptation planning.
Moving forward, there is always work to do. However, GRIC has already completed several key steps – creating a vulnerability assessment, working towards better documenting traditional knowledge and Tribal oral histories, conducting an engagement strategy, and working towards geographic information system (GIS) modeling and mapping. GRIC is dedicated to continuing and expanding work that will help protect the Community from the harmful effects of climate change.
This article was compiled with support from the Gila River Indian Community Department of Environmental Quality, including Althea Walker, former Environmental Education & Outreach Specialist; Dr. Russell Benford, Environmental Program Manager, Wildlife & Ecosystems Management Program; and Andra Gutierrez, former Americorps intern and current GRIC DEQ Fuels & Restoration Crewmember. Ms. Gutierrez also contributed significantly to the development, review, and implementation of GRIC’s comprehensive climate change adaptation plan.
In completing this important work, GRIC also wishes to acknowledge key staff from partner organizations, including the following:
· Karen Cozzetto and Julie Maldonado at the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals;
· Elaine H. Wilson Consulting, LLC, which helped gather information from Community members; documented their concerns, perspectives, and priorities; and helped develop the climate profile;
· the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions, Native Nations Climate Adaptation Program, and Climate Assessment for the Southwest, which helped develop the climate profile; and
· the Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, which helped develop species distribution and ecological niche models, and to identify species of cultural and ecological interest that are most at risk of being negatively impacted by the predicted impacts of climate change.