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WYO Indian Country Seeing More Wild Weather?

August 17, 2011

HELENA, Mont. - Indian country is bearing the biggest brunt of climate change, according to a new report from tribal groups and the National Wildlife Federation.

More frequent extreme weather - such as droughts, floods, wildfires and snowstorms - is detailed, with fires in Wyoming noted as particularly destructive and expensive for natives.

Kim Gottschalk, staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund explains the impact of ecological damage.

"They depend on these systems for their spiritual, cultural and economic welfare - and yet, despite their historically low carbon footprint, have been disproportionately affected by climate change."

The study asks Congress to boost funding for conservation and climate adaptation projects through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and to repeal tribal exclusion from federal environmental programs.

Indian nations face profound challenges to their cultures, economies and livelihoods, says Jose Aguto, policy adviser for the National Congress of American Indians, yet they also have natural-resource expertise they want to share by collaborating with federal, state and local governments.

"They have practices that are time-tested, climate resilient, sustainable, bountiful and cost-effective."

Some of the richest renewable-energy resources in North America are on tribal lands, yet it's difficult to find capital or investors, and most federal incentives aren't available to the tribes.

The full report, "Facing the Storm: Indian Tribes, Climate-Induced Weather Extremes, and the Future for Indian Country," is online at nwf.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY