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Secretary’s Tribal Advisor Chalks up Long Hours Working on Behalf of Tribes

Members of the Tribes already know this, but President Obama, Secretary Vilsack and members of this Administration take very seriously the need to work with Tribes on a government to government basis, and to provide the Tribes with the technical and economic support they need not just to survive, but to grow, prosper and thrive. This commitment from the Administration provides me and this department with the opportunity to do great things in concert with First Americans.

For example, yesterday the Department of the Interior hosted an onshore renewable energy workshop. The conference, which concludes today, brought together stakeholders from across the government, renewable energy industry, and conservation community to discuss the administration’s efforts to rapidly and responsibly stand-up renewable energy projects on our nation’s public lands.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary Vilsack opened the workshop with a roundtable discussion about the Administration’s work to build a clean energy economy. I was honored to participate in a panel titled “Addressing Challenges to Build Renewable Energy Projects on Tribal Lands”.

Earlier in the week, I met with Jose Aguto of the National Congress of American Indians to discuss a USDA outreach effort to begin a series of roundtable discussions around conservation issues.  These round tables are being held at the directive of Secretary Vilsack to get a better understanding of how Natural Resources Conservation programs and funding are being utilized by around the country and Secretary Vilsack wants to hear from Tribal nations about ways to improve the working relationship between tribes and the agency, as well as improved coordination with state conservationists. We are also planning to solicit comments from Tribal representatives concerning the next Farm Bill.  We will announce a schedule for these upcoming roundtable meetings soon.

Also this week, the United South and Eastern Tribes held their annual Impact Week Meeting in suburban D.C.  I was honored to be asked to participate in the Natural Resources and Cultural & Heritage Joint Committee Listening Session on Tribal Sacred Sites with the US Forest Service. (By the way, the Forest Service is holding a nationwide telephone call next Monday to discuss Sacred Sites.  You can read more about it on the USDA Office of Tribal Relations website.

Tomorrow, I wrap up my week with a meeting with Americans for Indian Opportunity.  Executive Director Laura Harris who will meet with me to discuss the major issues that Tribal governments will face in working with the Federal government and USDA in 2012.   And throughout the week I had various meetings with Tribal leaders who were in town.  We discussed many areas of concern to Tribal governments, communities and individuals and our office continues to work every day to find solutions.

As you can see, I keep quite busy, but I am never too busy to hear from you.  The Office of Tribal Relations represents Tribal interests at USDA, and that means I work to bring the message of the Tribes to the Secretary.  Please feel free to reach out to me at any time.  We are as close as your phone.  To find out how to contact OTR, click here.

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