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Consultations between Interior Dep't and tribal nations to start in January

Consultations are set to start in January between the Department of the Interior and tribal nations as they seek to implement programs under the new bipartisan infrastructure law.

President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law in November, and it invests more than $13 billion directly into tribal nations across the country.

“We’re long overdue to make investments in infrastructure, but nobody knows that better than Indian County,” Biden said during the White House Tribal Summit in November. “Tribal lands have been chronically underfunded for generations.”

Biden said the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is the single largest investment in tribal infrastructure.

“The funding in the bipartisan infrastructure law is central to the Biden-Harris Administration’s all-of-government approach to strengthening Indian Country,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “I look forward to these conversations providing a roadmap as the department begins implementing the law.”

The funding from the law will help bolster community resilience, replace aging infrastructure, expand access to clean drinking water and help ensure that everyone has access to high-speed internet, according to the Department of Interior.

“The bipartisan infrastructure law is an unprecedented investment in Indian Country that will ensure that future generations have clean air, drinkable water, fertile soil and an overall quality of life that is currently threatened by the worsening climate crisis,” said Secretary Deb Haaland in a press release.

The Department of Interior issued letters this month to tribal leaders across the country inviting them to give their input and provide feedback to help inform early planning decisions related to the various programs and initiatives outlined in the law.

“Tribal leaders know best the needs of their people. It is critical that tribes continue to be at the decision-making table as we implement this historic opportunity,” Haaland said.

As part of the law, the Department of Interior received a $466 million investment for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for infrastructure projects and climate resiliency initiatives, as well as an investment of $2.5 billion to help the department fulfill pre-existing settlements of Indian water rights claims.

The law also made tribal nations communities eligible for additional Department of Interior programs to support building resilience to wildland fire and drought, restoring ecosystems, enabling fish passage and addressing legacy pollution from abandoned mine lands and orphan oil and gas wells.

When the Department of Interior and tribal nations meet for their consultations, they will focus on the implementation of programs on tribal climate resilience, water infrastructure and drought resilience, Indian water rights settlement investments, wildfire resilience, ecosystem restoration, legacy pollution and U.S. Geological Survey infrastructure law.

These consultations are closed to the public and will take place from Jan. 26 to the 28. Tribal nations are also allowed to submit written comments to consultation@bia.gov by Feb. 4, 2022.

This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.


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Screenshot via the White House

Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland speaks on the opening day of the White House Tribal Nations Summit on Nov. 15, 2021.

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