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Why Native American Tribes Are In McCall To Plan For Climate Change

A beautiful view of Payette Lake.
View of McCall's Payette Lake.

Representatives from Native American tribes are in McCall this week to talk about how they can adapt to climate change. Donald Sampson says Native Americans are and will continue to be more impacted by climate change than the rest of the country. That’s because climate changes are affecting their traditional food sources.

Sampson directs climate change projects for the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and is one of the organizers of the Tribal Climate Camp going on at the University of Idaho’s McCall Outdoor Science School.

Sampson says Alaska Natives have been feeling the impact of climate change for 50 years and tribes in the lower 48 have noticed it for at least two decades.

“As you know, we’re seeing catastrophic wildfires,” Sampson says. “In Idaho in particular we’re seeing drought conditions that are affecting the populations of salmon. We’re seeing glaciers that are melting in Montana.”

The participants at this week’s camp are learning about climate science and creating climate change adaptation plans for their own tribes. Sampson says a tribe’s climate change plan might involve finding ways to protect those traditional food sources like salmon in Idaho’s Clearwater River.

“Where they’re actually de-watering certain portions of the river for irrigation, they might be able to secure some water rights and trade for some of that water so it remains in the river for the survival of salmon,” he says.

This is the first Tribal Climate Camp and six tribes were chosen to send representatives, including Idaho’s Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene. It’s sponsored by several American Indian organizations, federal agencies and the University of Idaho. Organizers hope to do more camps like it around the country.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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