Mitigwaki idash Nibi (Our Forests and Water): A Climate Adaptation Plan for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians

The Red Lake Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with support from the Model Forest Policy Program, developed this climate adaptation plan for the natural resources of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. This plan identifies goals, objectives, strategies, and action steps to address climate impacts to the forest and water systems within the Reservation. The plan will inform future resource management, development, and planning programs with the aim to help the tribe become climate resilient.

The Red Lake Reservation is made up of over 800,000 acres of lakes, forests, wetlands, peatlands, and four villages housing approximately 6,000 tribal members. The report provides detail on demographics, and Community Profiles for each of the four villages. Climate change impacts are reviewed with modeled and mapped projections of temperature and precipitation scenarios for the Reservation in the short-term (through 2050) and the long-term (through 2070).  

The management of natural resources (especially timber and fisheries) provides the primary source of revenue on the reservation, thus the health of the forest and water directly affects the communities within. Climate change is impacting Red Lake with increased temperatures and heavier and variable precipitation events increasing ecosystem disturbances. In turn, flooding, drought and wildfire are occurring more frequently, causing other impacts - such as forest and aquatic species composition changes, as well as crop loss. The forest types on the Red Lake Reservation are categorized by five major forest cover type groups: 1) aspen; 2) upland hardwoods; 3) swamp hardwoods; 4) upland conifers; and 5) swamp conifers. Climate impacts as pertaining to each of these forest types are discussed.

To respond to these changes and prepare for future changes, primary goals were identified for implementation by the Department of Natural Resources. An Adaptation Action Plan was developed with specific objectives, strategies, and actions determined to meet these goals. The goals and some example objectives from the plan include:

Goal 1: Keeping our forest resources resilient for economic, cultural, and ecological viability

Objective 1.3: Combine research and climate findings with the timber data

Goal 2: Protect and preserve reservation water quality and fishery 

Objective 2.4: Track population of white fish in Red Lake as a possible bellwether for climate change

Goal 3: Manage/reduce/prevent invasive species

Objective 3.2: Identify the ecosystems most vulnerable to invasives and establish surveillance program

Goal 4: Encourage climate awareness in tribal planning and implementation

Objective 4.6: Develop a tribal-wide climate resilience initiative within tribal programs

Goal 5: Facilitate meaningful stakeholder engagement with tribal membership, neighboring communities, and other tribes 

Objective 5.2: Designate climate coordinator to track feedback and implement community meetings both on and off the reservation


Publication Date: 2014

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