Native Leaders Urge Lawmakers To Pass Climate Change Legislation

Alaska Natives are in Washington, D.C. – urging lawmakers to pass climate change legislation. Some believe that’s the best way to get federal money for relocating several villages.

There is no one central government agency to assist villages aiming to move because of climate change. Leaders in Kivilinia, Newtok and Shishmaref deal with a whole host of state and federal agencies – from the Environmental Protection Agency, to the Army Corps of Engineers to the Department of Commerce.

And that gets difficult. Yupiit Nation Chief Mike Williams says the effects of climate change are too severe for the government to delay time by duplicating services, or making plans and then failing to act.

“Federal agencies need to be coordinated. And I think a hearing on this matter in Alaska would help – in consultation with the federally recognized tribes that live on the ground,” Williams said.

Williams says having oversight hearings in Alaska will force federal agencies like the EPA – which is legally required to consult tribes on policy decisions – to actually see how dire the situation is.

And the Yupiit Nation needs money to move villages. Williams says he’s pushing Congress to pass legislation that would allocate the money.

And he has a straight forward pitch.

“It’s a disaster, and people are suffering,” Williams said.

Still, that may not be enough to sway Congress. The money would likely be attached to climate change legislation – something not only politically toxic, but also, not scheduled for any votes.

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