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Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership partners with NC Commission of Indian Affairs to strengthen climate resilience in coastal region Tribal communities

The Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership (APNEP) has partnered with the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs (NCCIA) and others to support Tribal communities in the Albemarle-Pamlico region in considering climate resilience during community planning. The project, developed by APNEP in partnership with representatives from Tribal organizations in the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed and coastal plain, is designed to increase engagement among Tribal communities, government agencies, and universities, as well as to acknowledge the unique knowledge and cultural perspectives of these communities surrounding impacts associated with climate change.  

“We are extremely pleased to have an opportunity to participate in this historic Tribal Resilience Project and to become engaged in a true environmental justice effort designed to improve the quality of life and the environment in American Indian Communities,” said NC Commission of Indian Affairs Director Greg Richardson. “We are also excited to have an opportunity to work in partnership with the NC Department of Environmental Quality, NC State University, and a wealth of other agencies who are connected to this project.”  

This proposal is centered around an overarching goal of protecting the environmental health of the waterways and natural resources in the Albemarle-Pamlico region, as well as the communities that live in, visit, and depend upon them.   “The Albemarle-Pamlico region includes the ancestral territories of Native nations, including Tribal communities who still live in and around the coastal plain today, says Dr. Ryan Emanuel, an Associate Professor and Faculty Scholar in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at NC State’s College of Natural Resources.  “The cultures and histories of these communities are integrally tied to the region’s landscapes and waterways. Native voices and perspectives are absolutely essential to understanding and planning for climate change.”

Core project partners include the NCCIA, APNEP, NC State University (NCSU), and the Virginia Coastal Policy Center. Other project advisors include the UNC American Indian Center, the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, and the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.  Community engagement envisioned through the project includes workshops and other forums to share information on climate impacts and resilience planning strategies, and promotion of information sharing between Tribal communities and resilience practitioners.

Ms. Beth Roach, Tribal Councilwoman of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia and chair of the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice, will join the NCCIA as project coordinator.  Additionally, Ms. Jocelyn Painter, a graduate research assistant and member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, will conduct an analysis to assess climate resilience planning and implementation projects by Tribal governments and other Tribal or inter-Tribal organizations throughout the United States under the guidance of Dr. Emanuel, who is also a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. 

After the completion of these initial phases of the project in 2021, the project team hopes to utilize these planning and assessment efforts to build capacity for developing resilience and adaptation strategies tailored to meet the unique needs of coastal plain Tribal communities.  “This effort is intended to provide a forum for Tribal communities and agency, university, and resilience practitioners to work together in developing strategies that address long-term resilience in the face of a changing climate,” says APNEP Director Dr. Bill Crowell.

More information about this project can be found on the APNEP website or by contacting APNEP Policy & Engagement Manager Stacey Feken at stacey.feken@apnep.org.  The project is funded through supplemental funding awarded to APNEP from the Environmental Protection Agency.  In addition to the original award, APNEP is funding the Virginia Coastal Policy Center to coordinate with the Tribal communities in the Albemarle coastal region of Virginia. This project supports implementation of North Carolina’s Executive Order 80 and the State Climate Risk and Resiliency Plan, similar directives in Virginia, and APNEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan

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