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Project Promotes Resilience Strategies

APNEP and North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs are implementing a project designed to support tribal communities in the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed in considering climate resilience during community planning. Map: Jocelyn Painter/NCSU

The Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, or APNEP, is partnering with the state Commission of Indian Affairs, or NCCIA, to support tribal communities in the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed in considering climate resilience during community planning.

APNEP, NCCIA and others are working with representatives from tribal organizations in the Albemarle-Pamlico watershed and coastal plain 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,” according to APNEP.

“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 NCCIA Director Greg Richardson in a statement. “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.”

The proposal focuses on the overarching goal to protect 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, officials said.

“The Albemarle-Pamlico region includes the ancestral territories of Native nations, including Tribal communities who still live in and around the coastal plain today,” said Ryan Emanuel, an associate professor and faculty scholar in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at N.C. 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.”

Partners intend to incorporate community engagement throughout the project with workshops and other forums as a way to share information on climate impacts and resilience planning strategies, and promote information sharing between Tribal communities and resilience practitioners.

“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,” said APNEP Director Bill Crowell in a news release Monday.

Joining NCCIA, APNEP in this partnership are N.C. State and the Virginia Coastal Policy Center. Project advisors include the University of North Carolina American Indian Center, North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency and Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center.

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. 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 U.S. under the guidance of 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 use 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.

Supplemental funding for this project was 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 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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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.