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Seminole Tribe builds its first Climate Action Plan

The Climate Action Plan timeline sets in motion an ambitious year of holistic and inclusive planning with departments and tribal members.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida has taken steps toward becoming a leader in climate change planning. The new Climate Resiliency Program will focus on curbing greenhouse gas emissions, understanding climate impacts, and creating a path toward a more sustainable future.

As the tribe’s inaugural climate resiliency officer, I am proud to serve the tribe in this important endeavor, and pledge to ensure the program is strongly rooted in community interests, by promoting climate resiliency strategies that utilize both western-based science and traditional ecological knowledge. In this role, I will coordinate research on the immediate and long-term impacts of climate change, engage with tribal members to inform program development, and provide recommendations to leadership on how to protect the assets of the Seminole Tribe and build greater resilience for the entire community.

The first step is to collectively develop a Climate Action Plan. This is a vital process of relationship building and visioning that will guide subsequent action and investment. tribal members will be at the heart of goal setting and prioritization of actions. The plan will be the result of a year of dialogue and shared learning, where members agree upon a common vision and set of action steps. Planned activities will aim to attract input from tribal members from all generations and across all STOF reservations.
The Climate Action Plan timeline sets in motion an ambitious year of holistic and inclusive planning with departments and tribal members. In February, I met virtually with community members to listen and learn tribal history, present climate concerns, and Native perspective and priorities. We created our own word cloud to define resilience, using words like survival, sovereignty, responsibility, harmony and justice.

In March, we are surveying tribal members and staff to gauge interest in climate education and training opportunities, rank an individual’s level of concern to local climate change impacts, and develop working groups for the Climate Action Plan. Everyone is encouraged to participate. The site for the survey is: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZVL9NMG.

The one-year timeline is ambitious, but a holistic and inclusive planning process is never really complete. We will continue to ask questions and identify research needs. We will continue to find gaps and make new connections. We will continue to expand our knowledge, increase our capacity to take action, and give power to the beauty in our dreams. Let us begin.

It is time for the tribe to build and own the Seminole climate story. This process of discovery will not only help create the vision and future outcomes of the Seminole Tribe’s realized climate experience, but could potentially inspire other tribal and non-tribal communities around the world as a model for a new approach to adapting to climate change. Blending traditional ecological knowledge and western-based science, STOF may become a leader in developing climate resiliency strategies that actualize the goals of protecting future generations, repairing a broken system of relationships, and healing the land and ecosystems we depend on.

Jill Horwitz is the climate resiliency officer for the Seminole Tribe. She can be reached at jillhorwitz@semtribe.com.

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