In the fall of 2015 the Tulalip Board of Directors adopted a policy to create a strategy to increase our resiliency in the face of climate changes by developing a climate adaptation plan. The plan is intended to maintain the health and well-being of Tulalip people and culture in spite of the adverse effects of climate change. This plan considers the risks to, and strategies for, protecting health, economy, natural and cultural resources as well as infrastructure. Climate change affects all aspects of Tribal life. In the plan below, we describe how we are developing strategies to adapt our various programs to ensure the health, well-being and lifeways of Tribal citizens.
A key assumption in thinking about and applying adaptation measures is that we adapt throughout our daily routines. This climate adaptation planning effort is simply a more deliberate consideration of how and why we adapt to climate change.
In 2016 we convened a group of Tulalip staff from a variety of departments to act as a core team to develop this strategy. The Team then reached out to others in Tribal Government for broad input. The Team identified the many facets of tribal life that are affected by climate change. To efficiently develop and apply adaptation strategies we associated climate change threats to areas of tribal interest such as discrete geographic areas, government functions, specific natural resources, health and the economy.
Our climate adaptation strategy takes both a programmatic and a geographic approach. Where appropriate we are considering Tribal Government programs that are being affected by climate change. Our Hazard Mitigation Plan and our health programs are two examples. But also, some of the threats to our reservation and our resources can be described geographically. For instance, our coast is being affected by sea level rise and storms, while in the rivers and watersheds, salmon, wildlife and plants are affected by drought. These are best addressed geographically. Below is a list of programs and areas we are currently targeting.
Health Programs: We are currently in the process of developing a climate adaptation strategy for the Tulalip Health Services. We reached out to staff from many departments to help us define what climate adaptation should consist of as it relates to the health of Tribal citizens. This plan should be completed by the end of 2022.
Hazard Mitigation Plan: We rewrote our Hazard Mitigation Plan in 2019 and 2020. Previous versions noted that climate change was a factor in natural hazards and should be considered the effects. The revised FEMA approved plan considers the potential effect of climate change on each hazard throughout the document.
Food Sovereignty: Our concerns around how climate change can affect food have many dimensions. We are developing a climate and food sovereignty plan that addresses how food is part of our lifeways and reserved in the Treaty, how food is available from local sources (such as grocery stores) and how food might be produced on parts of the reservation.
Energy Security: We are currently considering the best approach to energy security. We intend to review our current energy sources, uses and vulnerabilities. There is potential for a significant amount of clean energy to be produced on the reservation. Production of this energy could also improve the reliability of energy delivery because it would be produced locally. Part of this effort is a feasibility study we are conducting in cooperation with the Snohomish Public Utilities District. We are evaluating microgrids at our Gathering Hall and the Administration Building. In addition, we are studying the feasibility of a utility scale solar farm at Big Flats.
Sea Level Rise on the Reservation Coast: A study we completed in 2021 showed that our bluffs are eroding from one to three feet a year. We know that this rate of erosion is increasing because the sea is rising and storms that drive waves are getting more severe. At our request the United States Geological Survey completed a study of storm driven flooding along our shore. They are now working to predict how much coastal erosion will increase due to the increased energy of storms. All of this information will be part of a Coastal Managed Retreat Plan that is under way and will be completed early in 2023.
Forests: Forests throughout our traditional lands are being affected by changing patterns of rain and snow fall. Winters are getting warmer and wetter, with less snow, and summers are getting hotter and drier, with less rain. Forests provide many of the plants and wildlife that are part of our lifeways, and they are part of the ecosystem that supports salmon. Another way to say it is that forest provide many important ecosystem services. We have been developing tools to better understand how changes will affect our important treaty resources and ecosystem services. By mid-summer of 2022 we will have completed an assessment of how climate change will affect five key plant species that are important to Tribal citizens. And we are working with the EPA and University of Washington to model wetland distribution, forest structure and water movement in the Snohomish Watershed so we can understand how forest management might be changed to improve water management and dampen the effect of drought. Fire poses a significant future risk to resources that are important for us, and, along with fires, often comes flood. We plan to continue to develop our models to quantify ecosystems services and management strategies that will help control fire, flood and generally address climate change over the next century.
Other Future Areas of Climate Adaptation Focus: As we noted earlier, climate change affects all aspects of our lives. We will address other areas as funding becomes available and as the issues become urgent. An example is that we would like to evaluate the changing hydrology of Quil Ceda Creek. Much of the watershed is urban with very little infiltration of rain water. However, there may be opportunity for wetland restoration that could improve water management and salmon habitat. Urban management practices such as planting large trees along streets can do a great deal to reduce rain water runoff. Soon we will address these issues.
The reality of Tulalip climate adaptation is that we have been adjusting to climate change for a long time. All of our current work, whether in health care, building maintenance, economic development, emergency response or natural resource management, has required that we adjust to changes around us. The Board of Directors mandated plan is identifying climate adaptation that is already happening and looking into the future for adjustments we will need to protect our wellbeing in light of projected change.
Climate adaptation is itself an ongoing and adaptive process. It is not an effort that is separate from our day to day lives. It is an accounting of and adjusting to the environmental factors affecting us. It modifies our day to day activities, including lifeways, work and tribal governance. For example, we manage wildlife throughout our tribal territory. We are not likely to change our fundamental approach to management but climate adaptation planning will allow us to adjust our management decisions to account for anticipated changes attributable to climate change. This is the case throughout Tribal activities.
A short list of public reports and documents for Tulalip and our region.