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Florida’s tribal youth to help restore coastal land

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

The Interior Department announced April 28 that six tribes would be included in a new round of funding for the Tribal Youth Coastal Restoration Program.

The program secured $927,000 in funds for a three-year project to help restore up to 1,000 acres of wildlife habitat on tribal lands along the Gulf Coast. The work is part of the Interior’s task to carry out President Joe Biden’s executive order to create jobs in clean energy and climate change mitigation.

Florida’s Seminole and Miccosukee tribes are included in the group of six, along with the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana.

The program is considered hands-on career training. Officials said each tribe has proposed its own unique teaching and experiential learning opportunities to prepare participants to “understand and respect their natural environment,” through activities like native plant restoration, site cleanup and water and soil sampling.

The activities also promote skills needed to work on restoration throughout the Gulf and engage the Native Gulf community in a larger restoration effort that will continue for decades, officials said.

“Innovative strategies are urgently needed to help protect and enhance our fragile ecosystems,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) said in a statement. “Investing in programs that simultaneously provide economic opportunities for young people and protect our environment must be part of the solution to our climate crisis.”

After the project, participants will be encouraged to pursue additional courses and degree programs to help them pursue careers in natural resources conservation.

The Restore Council initially approved the program in 2015. It trained 239 students in five tribes who restored 995 acres. Officials said the initiative proved so successful that the 11 member council, which includes Gulf state and federal members, unanimously approved the new funds, which builds on the initial investment and adds the Coushatta Tribe.

The project originates from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which was established in 2012 after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 – the largest marine oil spill in history.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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