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Learning From Tribal Innovations: Lessons in Climate Change Adaptation

December 2019

Citation: ELR 11130

Author: Morgan Hepler and Elizabeth Ann Kronk Warner

Although a vast literature focuses on the efforts of states on climate change, they are not the only sovereigns who are working to address its negative impacts. This Article argues that though tribal governments are not part of the federalist system, they are still capable of regulatory innovation that may prove helpful to other sovereigns, such as other tribes, states, and the federal government. It examines the steps tribes are taking on climate change adaptation and mitigation, and demonstrates that tribal climate change adaptation planning is truly innovative in notable ways when compared to state planning. First, the inclusion of traditional ecological knowledge is unique to tribes and can prove quite beneficial. Tribes also involve their communities by surveying and involving community members in the implementation phase. Further, tribal adaptation plans promote the preservation of cultural resources. Other sovereigns would do well to learn from how tribes are providing valuable paths forward to develop effective climate adaptation measures.

Morgan Hepler is completing a J.D. and Ph.D. in economics at the University of Kansas. Elizabeth Ann Kronk Warner is dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah.

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