Western Region

The NOAA West Tribal Portal is intended to elevate awareness and understanding of the regional landscape of tribes and issues that intersect with NOAA’s mission. The site provides training links and reference materials to inform NOAA employees of the historical context and legal relationship between the federal government and tribal governments. It also serves as a virtual regional network to help connect NOAA employees in the region who work with tribes, and to facilitate information access and sharing.

Regional Landscape

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For a description of U.S. Census geographic terms used in this map, visit this link.

The NOAA West Region is home to 221 of the 564 federally recognized tribal entities in the United States. In terms of the environment, many tribal communities in the West remain concerned about changing climate conditions, particularly in the context of their cultural identity – that is, their beliefs, values, behaviors, symbols, and over all way of life.

Reservation based communities are spatially fixed on the landscape, and climate related environmental changes such as decreased water supply and desertification, ocean acidification, sea level rise and coastal storminess, can have direct negative and also disproportional impacts on tribal communities. Tribal governments represent a unique, important, and powerful constituency in the region, and there is increasing demand for direct tribal consultation and engagement around these and other issues.

Tribal concerns are often intertwined with the complex issues of treaty reserved rights or other related rights, such as water rights, that support the establishment of a reservation or otherwise provide a “permanent homeland and abiding place” for a tribe. A number of tribes in the region hold treaty-reserved rights to hunt, fish and gather in historically defined “usual and accustomed” areas. In the Pacific Northwest, the 1974 federal court decision in United States v. Washington affirmed the tribes’ treaty right to half of the harvestable salmon, and established the tribes as co-managers of Washington fisheries. Federal courts upheld this right and with it the implied responsibility to protect the environment, for without a healthy environment to support the resource, there is no treaty right to exercise.

The federal trust responsibility derived from treaties, statutes, court decisions and other dealings between the United States and Indian tribes extends to NOAA as a resource steward, but also as a provider of authoritative scientific information. Protecting habitat to support salmon recovery, and the recovery of other Endangered Species Act listed species is a top regional priority. Providing science based forecasts and predictions for drought, water supply and management; and engaging tribes along the spectrum of communication, coordination, consultation and partnership in the implementation of policy priorities in the region – from climate services to the stewardship of the ocean, coasts and watersheds continues to shape NOAA’s regional tribal engagement.

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