EPA grant will allow NAU’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals to address pesticides on tribal lands

The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) at Northern Arizona University was awarded a five-year cooperative agreement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ITEP will receive $975,000 to administer and provide technical support for the Tribal Pesticide Program Council (TPPC), an EPA partnership group that informs tribes of pesticide issues, promotes pesticide education and awareness and assists in the development and establishment of comprehensive tribal pesticide programs.

“EPA is excited to start a new working relationship with ITEP and improve on our past accomplishments to support tribal pesticide programs in Indian country,” said Doug Benevento, EPA deputy administrator. “Tribal governments have been working on EPA pesticide programs since the agency began 50 years ago, and the input they provide is invaluable.”

Established in 1992, ITEP’s mission is to strengthen tribal capacity and sovereignty in environmental and natural resource management through culturally relevant education, research, partnerships and policy-based services.

“We are honored to be selected for this cooperative agreement and to be working with EPA to support the Tribal Pesticide Program Council,” said Ann Marie Chischilly, ITEP executive director.

Agriculture represents the economic backbone of more than 200 tribal communities. The use of pesticides on tribal lands and the various ways in which tribes develop a capacity to address pesticide use are two concerns the partnership will address.

Some tribes have access to pesticide regulatory officials, pesticide circuit riders or agricultural extension personnel associated with nearby state land grant colleges and universities, but many do not and need resources to adequately assess their community’s pesticide issues or needs.

“EPA is proud of its relationship with tribal governments and the valuable input they provide to help us meet our mission of protecting human health and the environment across the country,” said Chad McIntosh, EPA Office of International and Tribal Affairs assistant administrator“We look forward to working with ITEP and the TPPC to advance our shared goals.”

As a recipient of the cooperative agreement, ITEP will complete a number of objectives to support TPPC’s mission. First, ITEP will collaborate with the council to analyze high-priority pesticide-related issues in Indian country and publish an annual publication titled “Tribal Pesticides Priorities.” This will inform the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs by outlining key issues of importance to the council and the tribes they represent.

ITEP also will develop a technical advisory committee responsible for assisting the council with emerging pesticide issues.

Secondly, capacity development and information exchange will be enhanced by assessing and supporting the TPPC’s training and technical assistance priorities. An assessment of priorities will be performed in the first year of the project. In years 2-5, two trainings as well as technical assistance will be offered to tribal pesticide professionals on an annual basis by utilizing tribal environmental conferences—such as ITEP’s Tribal Lands and Environment Forum—or webinars to offset costs of travel for participants.

Lastly, ITEP will enhance outreach efforts of the council to Indian country by publishing a quarterly e-newsletter, supporting and enhancing the council’s website and highlighting the TPPC and EPA tribal pesticide programs, issues and priorities in presentations at regional forums and meetings.

“In many respects, ITEP is our emissaries to Indian Country, and as the EPA is aware, they are the go-to organization to further the environmental capacity of Native nations,” said Chad Hamill, vice president of NAU’s Native American Initiatives. “The efforts of the TPPC, as well as the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs more broadly, will be significantly bolstered through this partnership.”