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California Tribe Uses New Knowledge of Reservation Ecology to Shape the Future

Environmental AssessmentIn 2007, the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians began a three-year ANA Environmental Regulatory Enhancement project to improve the tribe’s capacity to analyze the impact of future land development projects on the Hopland reservation’s environment.

A five-person team conducted plant and animal inventories, studied the health of streams, and mapped vegetation and habitat, producing detailed species lists, maps, and a photographic guide for mammals and other wildlife, a plant herbarium with over 950 plants, and comprehensive wildlife and botanical resources reports.

Using aerial photography, on-the-ground field mapping, and geographic information systems (GIS) software, they also created maps to identify vegetation patterns, sensitive vegetation and wildlife areas, and 17 illegal solid waste dumpsite areas on the reservation.

During the last two years of the project, project staff and local partners conducted eight Master Naturalist workshops to educate 32 tribal members on traditional ecological knowledge, reservation ecology, and sustainable environmental practices, and trained three tribal members in data collection and environmental monitoring activities.

In the final year of the project, team members worked with tribal leaders to develop a new environmental review process, enabling the tribe to more efficiently conduct impact assessments, improve its permitting process, and monitor future development and zoning.

Team members feel that the project enhanced the tribe’s ability to prevent land, air, and water pollution; restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat; ensure the survival of native plants; motivate tribal members to take an active role in protecting the environment; and preserve tribal culture and seasonal connections to the land.