WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of the Interior is directing $8 million to helping Native American communities address the effects of climate change.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the funding on Tuesday while in Alaska, where she is visiting Kivalina, one of the Native villages that has been seeking to move because sea level rise and coastal erosion threaten their long-term safety.
Native communities can apply for the pool of funds, known as the Tribal Climate Resilience Program, to help cover climate change adaptation, as well as ocean and coastal management planning. This builds on $2.3 million that Interior had set aside for tribal climate resilience last year, the agency said in an announcement.
“No one is impacted by climate change more than Native communities in Alaska, but we have also seen serious problems developing for tribal communities across the West and on both coasts. We must act to help protect these communities," Kevin Washburn, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at Interior, said in a statement. "The cultural and economic needs of tribes are tied to the land and protecting that land is a critical component of advancing tribal sovereignty and self-determination."
At least a dozen Native villages in Alaska have voted to relocate because of the effects of climate change, and more than 200 are already experiencing negative effects. In December, The Huffington Post reported on one of those towns, Shishmaref, which has been looking for funds to help relocate since 2002. An Army Corps of Engineers study estimated that relocating Shishmaref to the Alaska mainland would cost $179 million. The town would be among the villages eligible to apply for these new funds, an Interior spokeswoman told The Huffington Post.