During the weekend, California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a $100 million budget item to give to Californian Native American tribes to buy land that would be preserved, as well as create programs to fight climate change and increase workforce development.
Under Newsom’s proposal, which stems from a 2020 Executive Order in which Newsom set a mandate to preserve 30% of Californian lands and coastal waters to be preserved by 2030 to help fight climate change and boost biodiversity, funding would also go to supporting tribal initiatives that advance shared climate and biodiversity goals including research, development and implementation of traditional knowledge, workforce training, and tribal nature-based climate conservation programs. The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) would manage the new tribal funding commitment. Tribal leaders would also get a say to as where the money would go and what lands would be preserved, moving away from the normal grant system where the state doles out where the money goes and how it is spent.
“Too often, California Native American tribal communities are overlooked and suffer many of the worst impacts of climate change,” said Gov. Newsom in a statement. “The California way is not to hide from our past, but to embrace it with a commitment to build upon our values of inclusiveness and equity for everyone who calls this state home. We know that California Native peoples have always had an interdependent relations with land, waters, everything that makes up the state of California. Unfortunately we also know that the state has had a role in violently disrupting those relations.”
Government official have noted that ever since the 35%-by-2030 Executive order mandated in 2020, tribes have said that they want to take a leading role in preservation and restoration efforts. During the weekend, California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot noted that the funding would lead to a collaborative effort between the state and tribes in doing that.
“We heard loud and clear in our consultations with more than 70 different California Native American tribes a strong desire from tribal governments to play a leading role in restoration and conservation efforts that benefit Tribal communities and honor their connections to the lands and waters,” said Crowfoot. “Tribes also identified a need for capacity building resources to participate more centrally in California’s conservation and climate efforts. This proposed funding can make that collaboration possible.”
“Preserving land would allow more plants and soil to actually absorb that pollution from the atmosphere and store it in the land. Nature is needed in this effort to combat climate change.”
Celebration, concern over Newsom’s $100 million proposal
Governor Newsom’s Tribal Advisor Christina Snider also said, “As we have heard over the last few days, removing California Native people and practices from the places they have lived and thrived in since time immemorial has had far-reaching negative impacts, including many of the climate challenges we are currently experiencing. This proposal, which anticipates a tribally-led and informed process, is a step in the right direction to begin to honor what California Native peoples have been through and respectfully defer to tribal communities as the first people of this place.”
Tribes responded positively to the proposed budget item during the weekend but also warned of possible problems, such as multiple tribes claiming ownership over the same land, unrecognized tribes not getting anything from the proposed funding, and tribes worried about the extent to which the state would oversee fund dispersal.
“A lot of different tribes have competing claims on land or worry that they are small enough they won’t get anything or are worried about land price,” said “Russell,” a tribal representative who asked to be anonymous, in a Globe interview. “This would be a great boon for us, as we are very committed to preserving land. A lot of people would think we are just doing this for free land or some other selfish motive, but we really do want to help the planet and keep these areas as they are. But there are a lot of worries attached to all of this so, if passed, we will really need to work out who gets what and other factors or else all of this that is meant to protect California’s lands will just go down to petty squabbling, and no one wants that.”
Others noted that the state should play a part in overseeing the lands to make sure that they are being properly preserved.
“If this goes through, the state has to make sure that the tribes are all doing their part in preserving these lands properly,” added Michael Carver, a land sanitation contractor who has held contracts with numerous states west of the Mississippi, to the Globe on Monday. “Tribal lands, especially reservations, means different rules. Since laws become different, state services sometimes won’t go there and things like highway cleanup become the tribes’ duties. I’ve gone in on reservations to do cleanup and it’s a nightmare because nothing has been done regularly.”
“The California tribes have a much better track record and in many cases put those groups that adopt a highway to shame in terms of keeping things neat. But the state still needs to make sure that they’re doing their part. The state is trying to sell this as paying $100 million now to the tribes and later saving on many costs of up-keeping the land while also meeting that executive order mandate and gaining favor with the tribes. But oversight is needed, and it needs to be clearer that the state will oversee at least some of it to truly be successful.”
Newsom’s tribal land proposal is currently a part of his $286.4 billion budget proposal.
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