The Columbia River Basin and the plants and animals it supports have been central to tribal culture and economy in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, and British Columbia) for thousands of years. Climate change is expected to significantly alter the ecology of the Columbia River Basin, and tribal communities will be especially sensitive to these changes, including possible loss of culturally and economically significant foods such as salmon, deer, root plants, and berries.
The purpose of this project was to assess the capacity of tribal communities and organizations in the Columbia River Basin to prepare for and respond to climate change. Researchers surveyed 15 tribes and three inter-tribal organizations to measure their climate change expertise; awareness of ongoing initiatives; ability to implement actions and policies to address climate change; and level of engagement with federal, state, and local government planning. Researchers also sought to identify Columbia River Basin tribes’ needs with respect to climate change planning and adaptation.
Results show that, while there are different capacities among tribes, all of the tribes and inter-tribal organizations surveyed have limited resources to adequately plan for and adapt to climate change impacts affecting their communities and natural resources. Participants identified a variety of tribal needs, including heightened community awareness of climate change impacts and increased funding and staffing to develop vulnerability assessments, adaptation plans, and effectively engage in regional climate planning forums.