Jun 21, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Exclusive: AmeriCorps pledges aid to tribal-led climate solutions

Illustration of a pile of money in front of abstract shapes.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AmeriCorps is allocating more than $7 million to tribal nations and Indigenous-led nonprofits working to address needs related to climate change, food security and conservation.

Why it matters: From Alaska to New Mexico, Indigenous communities are confronting severe climate-fueled challenges as increasing volatility in food systems spurs escalating food insecurity.

Driving the news: Eighteen organizations and tribal nations were announced as recipients of the funding on Wednesday, which AmeriCorps organizers tell Axios will be dispersed through grants that communities will see by the end of the year.

How it works: Grantees will also receive on-the-ground help via AmeriCorps members and volunteers, who in some cases will be recruited through the communities themselves.

  • One example: The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation in Washington — which has been awarded $400,000 in funding — will acquire the aid of at least 20 AmeriCorps volunteers in restoring fish habitats, maintaining hatchery production and monitoring fish populations.

What they’re saying: AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith tells Axios this funding will make "a very big impact" on climate change, conservation, habitat preservation and food security for tribal nations in need.

  • "The pandemic exposed so many existing inequities, and you cannot talk about existing inequities in this country without talking about the challenges that our tribal communities have faced," says Smith — citing climate change and environmental stewardship issues among the biggest challenges.

The intrigue: He tells Axios the federal agency is seeing a growing annual trend in the number of U.S. members who are actively working to address climate change — now roughly 16,000 members of the agency's 200,000 total domestic workforce.

Yes, but: While the investments are targeted to areas of focus like climate change, food security and conservation, the grant program guidelines are broad, according to Smith.

  • "I'm not sitting in an office in Washington, D.C., deciding what's needed at the Chippewa Cree Tribe or the Yakama Tribe," says Smith. "It's really those individuals in those tribes saying, 'What are our biggest challenges that we're facing?'"
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