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foster and build relationships. This begins with such basics as where meetings are held and knowledge of tribal customs and the elder leadership.

Then, it is important IRWM representatives convey the notion that they are not there to solve the issues related to resources management, but to assist tribal communi- ties. Resource management issues sometimes extend beyond tribal boundaries which tribes are willing to be part of in order to be good community supporters.

There are more than 100 federally recognized tribes in California. These sovereign nations are careful about not causing negative environmental impacts to their neighbors, but at the same time discussions with them have to be approached appropriately.

The North Coast IRWM Plan has actively engaged with tribal representatives since its inception in 2004 via stake- holder outreach, project identifi cation and incorporation of tribal planning priorities. The plan’s Memorandum of Mutual Understandings signatories include these tribal representatives: the Yurok Tribe and Hoopa Valley Tribal Protection Agency.

The North Coast IRWM Plan Policy Review Panel – the governing body for the North Coast IRWM Plan – is comprised of appointees from the seven counties and from tribal councils in the region. Similarly, the North Coast Technical Peer Review Committee – responsible for advising the Policy Review Panel on technical and scientifi c issues and supporting project evaluation – is comprised of county and tribal appointees. The North Coast IRWM Plan is hiring a tribal outreach coordinator to increase communication with tribes, enhance identification of key issues, projects and opportunities to be refl ected in North Coast IRWM plans and projects.

Because they are sovereign nations, tribal communities are concerned about divulging proprietary information. When relationships, trust and understanding of tribal culture are established, it paves the way for cooperative agreements and tribal access to IRWM funding.

A misconception is that tribes belong in the same category as DACs, which are guaranteed a certain per- centage of IRWM funding. Tribal coordinators are quick to emphasize there is a distinct difference between tribes and DACs and that tribes do not want to be “put in a box” regarding categorization for IRWM purposes.

There are also problems with responsiveness. Draft guidelines for Proposition 84 funding have neglected to mention tribes while comments given by tribal representatives are not incorporated into

the guidelines. It is believed that funding proposals are an area where DWR could better encourage partnerships.

Some tribal communities say flexibility could be modeled after public law contract agreements at the federal level that are used to fund opportunities for tribal self-suffi ciency. Also, fl exibility would be benefi cial in the applica- tion of the California Environmental Quality Act for tribal communities.

Ultimately, there remains room for improvement to better involve tribes in the IRWM process, both from the IRWM planning perspec- tive and from the tribes themselves. Those familiar with the process say it will take time and money to move forward, but that there are people already in place to open the door and facilitate dialogue with tribes. That dialogue needs to be open, critical where necessary and cognizant of the legacy of Native Americans in California.

In its 2012 Strategic Vision, the California Depart- ment of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) said that tribes are unique from other government agencies or organiza- tions due to their status as independent sovereign nations. Tribes rely on what is commonly referred to as traditional or cultural resources that the United States is obligated to protect and maintain; these resources may include but are not limited to fi sh, water, burial sites, specifi c plants and ceremonial sites (historic and contemporary).

DFW is among the agencies that suggest that offi cials need to engage in meaningful consultation and collabo- ration with tribal offi cials in decision-making processes that affect tribal lands, cultural resources and/or issues of mutual concern. A well-crafted tribal consultation process would enable DFW to identify tribes whose traditional and/or cultural resources would be impacted by a given action, work with the affected tribes to mitigate or avoid impacts to those traditional and/or cultural resources and better understand how local ecosystems work and the consequences and impacts of a particular action.

Specifi c outreach to the Native American community was ongoing during the 2013 Update of the Bay Area IRWM Plan process. For example, the stakeholder engagement team identifi ed Bay Area Native American tribal representatives to seek to identify water resources needs and concerns as well as water resources projects that might address them.


One of the primary objectives of the North Coast IRWM Plan is to enhance native salmonid habitat.

Click to read speaker presentations from the April 2013

IRWM Conference, sponsored by DWR and the

Water Education Foundation

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