In October of 2007 the Swinomish Indian Senate issued a Proclamation directing action to respond to climate change challenges. The Proclamation acknowledged the potential for issues and impacts in the vicinity of the Swinomish Indian Reservation and directs tribal departments and staff to undertake efforts and studies for promoting long-term proactive action.
In the face of growing scientific consensus and mounting verifiable evidence, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community has begun a project to look at how climate change may affect the Swinomish Indian Reservation. Given the geographic location and characteristics of the Swinomish Indian Reservation, potential climate change impacts could be both significant and long-term. In recognition of this, the Tribal Senate issued a Proclamation in October of 2007 directing action to respond to climate change challenges. Following this Proclamation, the Tribe won funding through the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Native Americans (ANA), to support a major new $400,000 Climate Change Initiative. ANA is providing 80% of the funding, and the Tribe is matching the remaining 20%. The Swinomish Indian Reservation, located on the southeastern peninsula of Fidalgo Island, is surrounded by water on three sides and is adjacent to low-lying mainland areas. A climate change report issued by the State of Washington in 2006 identified the lower Skagit River area as a high risk for sea level rise. The potential for sea level rise was demonstrated in February of 2006 when a strong storm surge pushed tides several feet above normal, resulting in some flooding and damage to property on the Reservation and in LaConner. This event heightened awareness of climate change issues in general, and it helped provide a catalyst for developing a project to determine appropriate responses to climate change.
Begun in late 2008, the Swinomish Climate Change Initiative is a two-year project that will attempt to assess local impacts, identify vulnerabilities, and prioritize planning areas and actions to address the possible effects of climate change. The ultimate goal it to develop an action plan for the future based on a comprehensive study of where potential risks and impacts of are expected to occur. The action plan will include a wide range of strategies for adaptation to and mitigation of potential impacts, relying upon expert scientific advisors to assist with analyzing data and seeking coordination with local jurisdictions where common interests exist with the Tribe and the Swinomish Reservation.
The project is organized into three basic objectives over the two years, the first two objectives running parallel to each other in the first year, followed by the third objective in the second year. The first year objectives include efforts by a technical work group to analyze scientific data and climate change scenarios, assess possible local impacts, and identify areas of potential risk and vulnerability to climate change effects. This information will be summarized in a technical impacts report. Concurrent with this, an advisory group will assist with developing a broad planning and policy framework for preparedness response strategies and will produce an assessment of critical issues and impacted disciplines.
In the second year, results of the first two objectives will be combined to identify and define specific mitigation and adaptation actions for the community. This will be published as a community action plan that will also be shared as a model to assist other tribal governments and jurisdictions with implementing strategic climate change planning policies and actions within their local communities.