Lead Author:
Maureen I. McCarthy, University of Nevada, Reno, and Desert Research Institute
Contributing Authors:
Beverly Ramsey, Desert Research Institute and Wa-Hi-La, LLC
John Phillips, First Americans Land-Grant Consortium
Margaret H. Redsteer, University of Washington
Science Lead:
Sasha C. Reed, U.S. Geological Survey
Review Editor:
Rachel Melnick, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Federal Liaisons:
Nancy Cavallaro, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Gyami Shrestha, U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Tribal Lands

As previously described, carbon cycle issues are integral to natural resource and land management decision making by Indigenous communities across North America. Generational values rooted in deep connections to the Earth form the basis for many of these communities. Eurocentric agricultural practices and fossil fuel energy extraction challenge these values, especially when they promise opportunities for job creation and revenue generation for tribal communities facing extreme poverty, unemployment, and public health challenges. Inherent conflicts between traditional values and the need to improve community livelihoods underlie the societal drivers for land and natural resource management decisions that affect carbon management.

Current carbon cycle programs aiming to improve both land stewardship and economic development on tribal lands are constrained because of funding, education, governmental policies on agriculture pricing, and natural resource management, as well as limited federal government participation in global carbon markets. Indigenous communities share substantial socioeconomic challenges that make successful implementation of future carbon management programs dependent on revenue generation through sustainable management.

Drivers that can both positively and negatively affect carbon stocks and fluxes include:

  • Increased population growth, increasing demand for water, and stresses from land use and limited natural resources in both tribal and surrounding non-tribal communities.

  • Economic incentives for tribes to engage in fossil fuel extraction projects.

  • Community stresses from high levels of poverty, unemployment, and public health issues.

  • Strong cultural commitment to ecological stewardship among tribal members.

  • Growing reliance on sustainable traditional agricultural and forestry practices and local native food production.

  • Increased implementation of renewable energy projects on tribal lands for both local energy use and economic development.

See Full Chapter & References