By Terri C. Hansen
Pacific Northwest Bureau Chief
News from Indian Country
WASHINGTON, D.C.—A new Office of Tribal Operations has been established within the Environmental Protection Agency to address critical gaps in environmental protection and improve the EPA's government-to-government partnership with Tribes.
A team of senior EPA managers have been working since January to identify ways of strengthening communication and understanding between EPA and tribes. A memorandum issued by EPA administrator Carol M. Browner last July announced specific actions for strengthening tribal operations, which included establishing a base description of tribal environmental problems and priorities, workplans for responding to those problems, field assistance, grant flexibility and streamlining, resource investment in tribal operations, and training for EPA staff.
Terry Williams, named as director of the new office, will work closely with top leaders in the EPA programs and regional offices in evaluating the levels of assistance being provided to tribes in air, water, waste, and other programs.
Williams, who prior to accepting the position served as executive director of the Tulalip Tribes Fisheries and Natural Resources in Washington state, said he looks forward to the challenges the newly created position offers. "Establishment of this new office will help ensure that Indian tribes throughout the U.S. receive the resources needed to address their environmental concerns," he stated in a news release.
"Terry has been a consistent, strong and effective advocate for tribal sovereignty and environmental protection in Indian Country," said Browner. "I look forward to having him join my senior management team."