Duane Champagne: Self-determination and the environment

"In the early 1970s the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created by the Nixon administration and implemented the president’s plan of New Federalism, which stressed cooperation among federal and state agencies, and more access to local communities for voice and participation in planning and decision making. The EPA adopted a plan to implement national policy for improving and maintaining healthy and clean environments to all American communities.

For most issues of environment implementation the EPA worked through cooperative agreements with state governments. Since the environmental movement was aware of and influenced by traditional Native American concepts, the EPA was willing to address the environmental issues confronting Indian country lands.

The Self-Determination policy also arose during the 1970s and tribal governments were starting to manage government grants and contracts. The EPA decided that tribal governments could regulate environmental programs and create environmental codes. At times, state governments wanted their own environmental standards to prevail in Indian country, but the EPA supported tribal governments. The EPA wanted the tribal governments to have the opportunity to manage their reservation environments in ways and with standards that were informed by tribal cultural traditions."

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Duane Champagne: Tribal Access to a Healthy and Clean Environment (Indian Country Today 10/14)

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