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BIPOC leaders lament exclusion from environmental policymaking

 The Chetro Ketl great house in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
The Chetro Ketl great house in the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

News brief

Mainstream environmental groups and federal policymakers are ignoring Black and brown communities. That was the consensus of tribal leaders and activists who testified at a congressional hearing this week

“This exclusion has resulted in failed attempts to pass durable climate policy because policymakers have ignored the very people who have an organized community behind them," Keya Chatterjee, executive director of the nonprofit U.S. Climate Action Network, told members of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Chatterjee's testimony urged environmental groups and bureaucrats to start engaging these grassroots community movements.

Navajo Nation Councilman Mark Freeland also testified, saying the Biden administration and environmental groups have ignored his tribe’s opposition to a proposed oil and gas leasing ban near Chaco Canyon in New Mexico.

"I want to point out that none of these environmental organizations, tribes, state or congressional leaders have taken the time to meet with our people on the Navajo Nation, despite repeated requests, letters, and teleconferences," Freeland said.

Other witnesses at the hearing criticized mainstream environmental groups and foundations, pointing to a recent report highlighting the misalignment between the philanthropic and environmental justice sectors. It showed that only about 1% of environmental grants in the Midwest and Gulf regions go to BIPOC-led groups.

Some House Republicans blasted the hearing, saying it was an example of identity politics and a diversion from other issues such as rising gas prices.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Nate is UM School of Journalism reporter. He reads the news on Montana Public Radio three nights a week.

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