Inspirational Memory – Vibes to Partnering with Tribes
The Center for Creative Land Recycling (CCLR) organized a session at the Tribal Lands Environmental Forum (TLEF), which focused on partnerships among tribes and non-tribal entities, including various state agencies, nonprofits, educational institutions and others. CCLR’s Ignacio Dayrit was assisted by many familiar faces in the audience who shared numerous partnership success stories. These included Lisa Griswold (Alaska Department of Conservation), Steve Gill (Idaho Department of Environmental Quality), Karen Homolac (Business Oregon), the Tribal TAB (Technical Assistance to Brownfields) team, and the unflappable Lily Bermejo (Salt River Pima Indian Community).
During the session, several key points emerged.
1. Tribal environmental staff have spent less time on the job compared to those in non-tribal organizations. The vast majority of tribal staff at the session had less than five years at their current position. The average tenure is also shorter than a comparable position in non-tribal organization.
2. With few exceptions, tribal environmental staff do not regularly communicate with other tribes.
3. Tribes need assistance in reaching out to potential partners that can assist with environmental response and enhancement projects.
4. Tribes need to catapult their activities from one technical/grant assistance project to the next. Finding the technical and financial assistance to bridge these efforts is a huge challenge, given their stretched resources.
Lily was particularly emphatic for tribal staff to seek assistance and clarifications at every opportunity. Tribal response and brownfields programs are still relatively new, and with newer staff that do not have a lot of experience, it is imperative for tribal staff to reach out often.
Ignacio also noted that relatively brief tenures compromise the development of complicated and long-range projects, many of which are discontinued due to turnover and may result in needless do-overs.
States can play key roles in providing technical and financial assistance. Brownfields and environmental cleanup projects know no boundaries – property, jurisdictional and physical. It is no reason for cooperation to stop at the borders either.
The Tribal TAB program plays a major role. Also a new program, the Tribal TAB is developing new tools, like the BIT Web and BIT Mobile smartphone app (a brownfield inventory tool), that preserve the institutional history of a project. Along with ideas and moral support, Tribal TAB is creating an Online Tribal Brownfields Forum (to be released in November 2018) for peer interactions that can serve as the inspirational memory to support ongoing tribal brownfield efforts through staffing changes.
CCLR thanks all the resources who shared their successes and challenges, and looks forward to working though these challenges with partner tribes in the coming year, and regroup at TLEF 2019.
The slides for the session will be available at the conference website at https://www7.nau.edu/itep/main/Conferences/confr_tlef