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Tribes of EPA Region 10 Come Together to Protect Wetlands

The Tribal Wetlands Working Group (TWIG) evolved from a two-day Tribal Wetland Workshop, held in Spokane, WA, for tribal partners in EPA’s Region 10. Prior to 2009, EPA struggled to meet both the programmatic and training needs of the tribes who aspired to improve the regulation, protection and restoration of tribal wetland resources. A driver behind this workshop was EPA’s roll out of the “Enhancing State and Tribal Wetlands Program” initiative. Dedicated to enhancing tribal wetland programs and to providing training on sustainable finance, EPA Region 10 hosted the workshop with assistance from EPA Headquarters.

Tribal participants appreciated an information exchange, training and networking venue that focused specifically on tribal programs and needs, and included only tribal participants. Using a grant from Headquarters, Region 10 supported two additional tribal wetland summits on wetland monitoring and assessment programs and voluntary restoration organized and hosted by the Region 10 tribes. Thus, the TWIG was born.  The participating tribes came up with the group mission “to share knowledge in support of the restoration and protection of wetlands and other aquatic resources from a tribal perspective.” 

Additional assistance provided by Wetland Program Development Grants (WPDG) and Region 10 technical staff have continued to support the TWIG workshops and training opportunities and have focused on developing organizational capacity and expanding the program to all aquatic resources. TWIG also aims to increase the awareness of the cultural importance of wetlands and other aquatic resources, and increase TWIG awareness/participation of Alaskan Natives.

The existence of TWIG enabled Region 10 to pilot the first Wetland Condition Assessment Monitoring training for tribes hosted by the Yakama Tribe in 2012.  Based on the pilot, EPA Regions 6, 8 and 9 are hosting similar tribal-focused workshops. In addition, the TWIG is serving as a national model for developing tribal aquatic resource program capacity.

A different tribe holds each TWIG workshop and they focus on specific topics. Workshops include invited guest speakers and usually involve a significant amount of time in the field where the host tribe can highlight technical features of their aquatic resources program.  To date, representatives from 30 Pacific Northwest tribes have participated in TWIG workshops. The group has its own quarterly newsletter, a strategic plan that captures the Region 10 tribal wetland efforts and increased access to intertribal training opportunities. This group is truly a groundbreaking initiative and an excellent way to make technology and information both visible and accessible among tribes.