The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Branch of Tribal Climate Resilience (TCR) strives to fulfill the United States’ trust and treaty obligations to federally-recognized Tribal Nations and Alaska Native villages and commits to advancing Tribal sovereignty and self-determination. To this end, TCR provides financial, technical, and coordination assistance to Tribal communities in their community-driven relocation (CDR) initiatives and other CDR strategies through both the Voluntary Community-Driven Relocation Program and the TCR Annual Awards Program.

What is Voluntary Community-Driven Relocation?

Communities located in an area that climate change is rendering uninhabitable may respond with one or a combination of strategies to move critical infrastructure out of harm's way: relocation, site expansion, and protection-in-place. Collectively, these strategies are known as “CDR strategies.” 

Climate-motivated relocation is taking place all over the world and with increasing frequency. In the United States, Tribal Nations’ climate-motivated relocation initiatives are neither mandated nor directed by the federal government. Rather, these efforts are elective and Tribally-led, which is why relocation is referred to as “voluntary” and “community-driven,” to differentiate it from Tribal Nations’ painful histories of forced relocation.

Due to the complexity and scale of these projects, as well as the increasing severity of climate-induced conditions, Tribal communities may implement a changing combination of strategies over time. Additionally, each of these strategies may be referred to by a different name depending on the Tribal community.

The following graphics and captions, adapted from The Unmet Needs of Environmentally Threatened Alaska Native Villages: Assessment and Recommendations with permission from the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, describe each strategy and some common terms by which it is known.

 

An illustration shows a cluster of houses located on a shoreline. An arrow indicates that all of the houses are relocated to land on the opposite side of the body of water.
Voluntary community-driven relocation, also known as “planned relocation” or “community-led resilience”: A community moves away from an area that climate change is rendering uninhabitable. In this CDR strategy, the community’s new location is not connected to its current site.
A cluster of houses sit near a shoreline. One of the houses is raised up on stilts and a barrier made of natural materials sits between the houses and the shoreline.
Site expansion, also known as “managed retreat” or “partial relocation”: A portion of a community moves away from hazard-prone areas to locations within or adjacent to its current site. This CDR strategy requires nearby developable land.
A cluster of houses sit near a shoreline. One of the houses is raised up on stilts and a barrier made of natural materials sits between the houses and the shoreline.
Protection-in-place: A community implements protection measures to minimize climate-induced hazards. This CDR strategy allows the community to remain in its current location. 

 

The Voluntary Community-Driven Relocation Program

The Voluntary Community-Driven Relocation Program, also referred to as the “CDR Program,” is a federal program that assists Tribal communities who are ready to implement voluntary community-driven relocation plans, as well as Tribal communities who are engaged in CDR planning. 

The CDR Program is supported and implemented by the BIA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Denali Commission, and other partnering federal, state, and local agencies. It is one of the first federal programs designed to work closely with community leaders to assist with planned relocation efforts driven by climate change impacts.

All projects are Tribally-led. At the direction of the Tribal communities, TCR assists with coordinating implementation and local support teams, provides financial and technical assistance to support Tribal strategies, and assists with coordination to match communities with federal financial and technical assistance. TCR regional coordinators support program award officials and serve as communities’ main points of federal contact.  

Participating Tribal communities and their CDR project coordinators are also invited to take part in additional training and are provided with a forum for knowledge exchange and mutual support.

Demonstration Projects

As of 2022, CDR Program participants include three Tribal communities ready for voluntary community-driven relocation implementation and eight Tribal communities engaged in CDR strategic planning.

The efforts undertaken by these 11 communities through the program will allow Tribal communities and their partners to develop standard guidelines for future Tribal climate resilience projects. For this reason, their initiatives are referred to as demonstration projects.

The Tribal communities ready for voluntary community-driven relocation implementation include:

The Tribal communities engaged in CDR strategic planning include:

With input from Tribal communities and in collaboration with the Branch of Geospatial Support (BOGS), TCR has created an ArcGIS StoryMap that explores each Tribal community’s cultural and historical context, climate risks, resilience plans, and federal funding sources in an interactive and multimedia format.

Visit the "Tribal Climate Resilience: Community-Driven Relocation" StoryMap.

The Tribal Climate Resilience Annual Awards

Tribal communities interested in planning or implementing CDR strategies may also apply for the TCR Annual Awards Program. The Annual Awards Program provides both competitive and non-competitive funding that supports Tribal communities in their climate adaptation efforts, including implementation and planning of voluntary community-driven relocation and other CDR strategies.

Learn more about the TCR Annual Awards Program.

Resilience Coordinator and Relocation, Managed Retreat, and Protect-in-Place Staff Funding

“Resilience Coordinator and Relocation, Managed Retreat, and Protect-in-Place (RMP) Staff” (also known as “RMP Coordinator” in previous years) is a non-competitive category of the TCR Annual Awards Program that supports Tribal Nations with limited technical staffing capacity to hire a full-time coordinator for the purpose of organizing, planning, and implementing CDR strategies.

In addition to funding for the position, participating Tribal Nations’ RMP coordinators receive first-year training through the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) Tribes and Climate Change Program. This training allows coordinators to: prioritize strategic planning, vulnerability assessments, and data gathering; travel to trainings and coordination meetings with regional resilience efforts; consult with resilience experts, such as other Tribes or regional resilience networks; and engage in peer-to-peer learning and knowledge exchange with other coordinators.

Visit the website for the most recent cohort of resilience coordinators.

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Additional Information

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Contact Us

Branch of Tribal Climate Resilience
1001 Indian School Rd NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
Open 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday.