This week, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and a group of her Democratic Senate colleagues encouraged input from American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian community leaders on the effects of climate change on their communities.

Sen. Smith—along with Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and 11 Democratic colleagues—understands the importance of fostering a dialogue on potential solutions and responses to this urgent threat that disproportionally impacts Native communities.

“As the National Climate Assessment recently confirmed, climate change is having a disproportionate impact on [Native] communities. But we would like to hear directly from you, leaders who are key voices for your communities, about how climate change threatens your traditional ways of life, economic opportunities, and overall wellbeing,”wrote the senators. “It is well past time for Congress to take action in partnership with you and your communities to address the risks and impacts associated with climate change.

“Your voices, stories of current impacts, and ideas for solutions the federal government can take to address the dire impacts of climate change are critical. We welcome your recommendations for federal action that will help provide your communities with the tools necessary to address the harms associated with climate change,” the senators continued.

The senators, Democratic members that sit on the Indian Affairs Committee and/or the Special Committee on the Climate Crisis, are seeking a response to a series of questions regarding the leaders’ perspectives by Sept. 13, 2019.

Dear American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Community Leaders:

We are writing to solicit your views on the impacts of climate change to your communities and begin a dialogue on potential solutions and adaptive responses. As the National Climate Assessment recently confirmed, climate change is having a disproportionate impact on your communities. But we would like to hear directly from you, leaders who are key voices for your communities, about how climate change threatens your traditional ways of life, economic opportunities, and overall wellbeing. It is well past time for Congress to take action in partnership with you and your communities to address the risks and impacts associated with climate change.

American Indians and Alaskan Natives maintain a government-to-government relationship with the United States cemented in treaties and reflected in federal law, and the United States recognizes a special political and trust relationship with the Native Hawaiian community. Any discussion on federal action regarding climate change must include your perspectives.

Your voices, stories of current impacts, and ideas for solutions the federal government can take to address the dire impacts of climate change are critical. We welcome your recommendations for federal action that will help provide your communities with the tools necessary to address the harms associated with climate change.

To begin our discussion, we ask that you send us thoughts and comments by Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. Below are some questions to prompt ideas.

1. What policies, regulations, and programs have proven particularly useful in assisting your communities in mitigating and responding to climate change impacts?

2. Are there policies or strategies that your communities are using to address climate change that could scale for implementation at the federal level, including traditional knowledge?

3. What actions or policies could federal agencies take within existing authorities to improve climate change mitigation and resilience in your communities?

4. What new policies would you recommend Congress consider to improve climate change resilience in your communities, reduce emissions of heat-trapping pollution, increase the development and availability of renewable resources, or capture or off-set emissions of heat-trapping pollution?

Your knowledge and experience on this issue is invaluable, and we look forward to receiving your input. Please send your thoughts and comments to CommunityLeaders.Feedback@indian.senate.gov.

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