Natural Resources Assessment of Tribal Lands Impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Science Center Objects

USGS is committed to meeting the science needs of four Native American Tribes impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New England and New York: the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head - Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, MA; the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod, MA; the Narragansett Indian Tribe near Charlestown, RI; and the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Long Island.

Working with the Tribes and determine how the agency can best respond to Tribal science needs
USGS is working with the Tribes to determine how the agency can best respond to Tribal science needs.

The Science Issue and Relevance: Native American tribes are disproportionately at risk and vulnerable to the impacts of environmental disturbances, including major storms and climate change, which threaten subsistence, land rights, future growth, cultural survivability, financial resources, and ways of life. Climate change and precipitation variability places many tribal lands at risk from flooding and sea level rise/storm surge. Some indigenous lands and sacred sites of extreme and irreplaceable cultural importance could be almost entirely lost under some climate change scenarios according to current sea level rise model projections. One of the common science needs for many tribes includes natural resources condition assessment and development of climate change adaptation strategies to better prepare for future climate change scenarios.

USGS is committed to meeting the science needs of four Native American Tribes impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New England and New York: the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head - Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, MA; the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe on Cape Cod, MA; the Narragansett Indian Tribe near Charlestown, RI; and the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Long Island.

Native American Tribes Impacted by Hurricane Sandy
Native American Tribes impacted by Hurricane Sandy

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: A natural resources assessment focused on coastal vegetation and freshwater fish populations will catalog and interpret local and regional natural resource conditions and threats using field data and other available datasets collected from the tribes and other sources (USGS, NOAA, State and County governments.) Special emphasis will be given to data collected in response to Sandy. In addition to data summary and interpretation, the available datasets will be compiled and organized in a framework that gives the tribes a comprehensive look at the state of their lands relative to surrounding areas, as well as providing them with baseline data for planning efforts (e.g. climate adaptation planning). One additional outcome of these projects is pointing out where data gaps exist for future data collection projects. These products will be valuable for developing climate adaptation strategies under future sea level rise and increasing storm activity.

Future Steps: USGS representatives have been working closely with the Tribes since Hurricane Sandy. The USGS will continue working with the Tribes and determine how the agency can best respond to Tribal science needs in ways that will further the scientific capacity and self-sustainability of the Tribes. This project meets many Department of the Interior obligations that Secretary Jewell reaffirmed in her 2014 Secretarial Order No. 3335 concerning the Federal Trust Responsibility to Federally Recognized Indian Tribes and Individual Indian Beneficiaries. The Secretarial Order provides seven principles that apply to all Interior agencies, including supporting tribal sovereignty and self-determination; protecting tribal lands and resources; building partnerships; and practicing responsiveness and timeliness. Enhanced baseline data, management plans, and identification of data gaps will increase the Tribes’ ability to independently monitor and manage their environmental resources and better plan for future storms.

USGS representatives have been working closely with the Tribes since Hurricane Sandy.
USGS representatives have been working closely with the Tribes since Hurricane Sandy.
Baseline data collection and identification of data gaps
Baseline data collection and identification of data gaps