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2012 EPA Research Progress Report

Supporting Sustainable and Healthy Tribal and Native Alaskan Communities

The 565 federally recognized Tribal nations across the United States manage more than 95 million acres of land. EPA’s American Indian Environmental Office works with those Tribes to protect human health and the environment by supporting and implementing federal environmental and related human health protection laws (as consistent with the Tribes’ sovereign rights, federal responsibilities, and EPA’s official Indian Policy).

That effort is supported by research exploring ways to advance sustainable and healthy Tribal communities. EPA scientists and the National EPA-Tribal Science Council work collaboratively to better understand environmental and human health issues important to Native American and Eskimo communities. (The EPA-Tribal Science Council is composed of a tribal representative from each of the nine Agency regions across the country.)

In 2012, EPA scientists and their partners from tribes across the country continued to develop and pilot a Web-based environmental decision support tool called the Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (Tribal-FERST). The tool is designed to provide tribes with the best available human health and ecological scientific information.

Using stakeholder feedback from the National Tribal Caucus, numerous tribes, the consortium of United South and Eastern tribes (USET), Tribal Colleges and Universities, and other stakeholders, EPA researchers incorporated a host of new enhancements into the beta version of Tribal-FERST. These included additional tribal information resources, enhanced maps in a Geographic Information System database with the ability to overlay local data.

EPA researchers also collaborated with the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Tribe of eastern Maine to pilot Tribal-FERST and address priority issues facing the tribe, such as the need to consider adaptive coastal management strategies in the face of potential sea level rise. The tribe also piloted Tribal-FERST as a decision support tool for comparing different waste management options and outcomes, including the production of power, revenue, and jobs under various scenarios.

Also in 2012, the EPA Tribal-FERST team joined with the USET consortium to develop a tribal environmental assessment roadmap and link Tribal-FERST with the USET Tribal Water Quality database and exchange node.

These ongoing partnerships, as well as outreach at key tribal meetings across the country, serve to enhance Tribal-FERST and continue to connect EPA science with tribal environmental needs.

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