Project Title: Pacific North American Indigenous Climate Change and Adaptation Project
Participating Indigenous Peoples/Nation: Possible sites include (a) Puget Sound (western Washington State, US) communities, e.g. Tulalip, Quinault, Swinomish; (b) British Columbia coastal and interior communities, e.g. Xaxli’p Band of the St’at’imc Nation; Okanagan (Penticton, BC), Schushwap, Haida Gwai, Helsut; (c) northern California and Oregon, e.g. Karuk (Klamath river, California), Klamath Tribe (south-central Oregon), Umatilla (ne Oregon), Warm Springs (north-central Oregon), Pyramid Lake Paiute (nw Nevada), Washoe (ne California/nw Nevada).
Proponent Organisation: The Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network (IPRN), a working group with and under the non-profit umbrella of the Society for Ecological Restoration International (SERI)
Overall Project Objective
The objective is to assess the environmental, cultural and socio-economic impacts of climate change and community adaptations to those impacts using traditional knowledge (TK) and, when required, Western Scientific Knowledge (WSK) guided by community cosmovisions and traditional values. Anticipated future climate changes and community “ecosystem-based adaptation” is the primary objective.
Brief Description of Project:
1.Continue contacting potential community leaders by phone and email who are willing to serve on the Temporary Pre-Assessment Steering Committee (TSC) that will select Permanent Assessment steering Committee (PSC) and community (ies).
2.Several trips will be made for consultation with potential pre-assessment community leaders: Possibilities are (a) Puget Sound (western Washington State, US) communities, e.g. Tulalip, Quinault, Swinomish; (b) British Columbia coastal and interior communities, e.g. Xaxli’p Band of the St’at’imc Nation; Okanagan (Penticton, BC), Schushwap, Haida Gwai, Helsut; (c) northern California and Oregon, e.g. Karuk (Klamath river, California), Klamath Tribe (south-central Oregon), Umatilla (ne Oregon), Warm Springs (north-central Oregon), Pyramid Lake Paiute (nw Nevada), Washoe (ne California/nw Nevada). Travel will be by plane, personal vehicle, and rental car
3.Finalize Temporary Pre-Assessment Steering Committee (TSC) and hold conference calls to discuss which communities to target and which community leaders will serve on community (ies) Project SC.
4.Organize and implement PSC meeting in area chosen by TSC.
Local ecosystem, resource management and livelihoods practices:
Most communities in Pacific North America have experienced the boom-and-bust periods of commercial resource extraction (especially timber) that non-Indigenous rural communities have also experienced. Intense logging peaked in the period of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and has been on the decline ever since due to overharvesting, old-growth liquidation, a global timber glut causing low stumpage prices, litigation by environmentalists, and 80% reduction in the cut on public lands. Increasing mechanization has led to job losses in the forest and timber mills over the last half century or longer, resulting in steadily increasing rural poverty.
Livestock grazing in the Great Basin and horse pasturing in the Shrub-Steppe biome (especially Nez Perce in Idaho) has been a traditional community livelihood, but has been declining because of depressed beef markets, range deterioration due to invasive annual cheat grass that replaces native perennial bunchgrasses causing increasingly frequent high severity fires, and invasion by native generalist species like sage and juniper due to overgrazing and/or lack of frequent low severity fires. Additional problems are loss of groundwater, organic pollution, and frequent severe droughts.
With the enforced cessation of Indigenous landcare practices and loss of land and resources, coupled by US policies of fire suppression, forests have become extremely dense and fire prone. Most cultural plants and quality wildlife habitat are disappearing due to lack of sun and regular cool understory burns. Berries do not produce well. Root foods (“Indian potatoes” or corms) are not regenerating. Basketweavers have difficulty finding straight, flexible, strong basket shoots. There is an imbalance in predator-prey relationships, e.g. former high deer numbers are declining, leaving a surplus of homeless young male mountain lions to forage in towns and suburbs for dogs and cats, leading to frequent encounters (even some deaths) with humans, before they too crash.
The smaller trees and brush suck up water through evapotranspiration, lowering water tables. Springs and small perennial streams are drying up. Rainwater and snowmelt flow downslope on the surface of the ground, (due to compaction from logging equipment and lack of heavy snow packs), causing erosion that silts up gravel spawning beds for salmon and delivering warmer water than formerly, resulting in degraded aquatic habitat; increase in fish diseases, and increased flood events. Flooding brings organic pollutants and silt into estuaries that are nurseries or holding places for fish and are quality wildlife habitat. Wetlands are drying up or drained for development, and cannot adequately filter pollutants.
This has had severe impacts on coastal and riverine communities that fish and gather shell fish. Most wild salmon and steelhead stocks are endangered or extinct. Shellfish in particular are suffering from ocean acidification. Dams, many without fish ladders to facilitate salmon returning to their natal spawning streams, create warm waters and algae blooms in reservoirs that deprive fish of oxygen and foster diseases. Dams also stop salmon from returning to their birth-streams and, in the case of aluminum plants deliver highly toxic pollutants and radioactive water to the river.
Climatic conditions/trends in the assessment site:
Overall, in both the Pacific Coastal//Interior Mountain and the Continental Semi-Arid Shrub-Steppe/Great Basin biomes, average temperatures have warmed with some severe droughts in the Great Basin, while precipitation is variable and difficult to predict, with some regions receiving more than normal rainfall while other places are receiving less than normal. Nearly all mountain glaciers have lost most of their former extent. Snowfall begins later in the autumn and stops earlier in the season, with more rain than snow in autumn. Storms are more severe. Weather anomalies can occur, e.g. warmer winter temperatures or rainier summers. Climate disruption is the best description of today’s weather. The further south or east in the bioregion, the warmer and the more arid the land is due to continental influence. Winters are also colder for the same reason.
Potential climate change impacts on the ecosystem and communities
Main concerns of potential effects of climate change on ecosystems include: (i) expected range shifts of plant and animal species due to regional warming in both biomes with already documented species movements up in elevation or further north; (ii) freshwater fish species will have no place to migrate to; (iii) proliferation and successful establishment of invasive species; (iv) temporal asymmetry between insect and bird pollinators and changing flowering times of plants; and bird migrations and regeneration cycles of insects; (v) loss of groundwater and general water quality and quantity; (vi) difficult in making accurate weather predictions. All of the above will significantly impact on the ability of the tribes in the area to continue their traditional practices and maintain a relationship with the ecosystems.