Environmental Quality

Tribal peoples have close spiritual, cultural, practical, and interdependent relationships with their homelands and natural resources. As such, they also face the direct and often disproportionate impacts of environmental degradation and contamination. Specific federal support for tribal environmental protection began over 20 years after the commencement of federal and state environmental protection programs that were initiated by the enactment of the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act in the early 1970s.

NCAI works to increase federal support for tribal environmental protection programs in order to reach parity with other government environmental protection programs that honors tribes’ role as members of the American family of governments.

Tribes have benefited from the Environmental Protection Agency’s General Assistance Program, which provides for tribal environmental protection efforts and often takes the form of a tribal environmental office. Approximately 60 tribes take part in this program, and the success has been immense. Many tribes also demonstrate high sophistication with respect to providing their own regulatory agencies and enforcing regulations on their lands with respect to both air and water.

NCAI works to address the long history that has linked tribal lands with nuclear waste. Nuclear waste is sometimes tied to economic development due to the related compensation for storage. It has also posed an enormous threat to sacred places and caused generations of health complications on reservations due to the mining of uranium on Native lands. NCAI’s work has focused on increased Department of Energy consultations with tribes regarding nuclear waste so that tribes have a greater voice in determining how they interact with nuclear waste.

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