September 26, 2016

At Tribal Nations Conference, Udall Urges Better Tribal Consultation for Federal Decisions on Projects Like Dakota Access Pipeline

NM Tribal consultation session set for Oct. 27 in Albuquerque

WASHINGTON - This morning, U.S. Senator Tom Udall attended the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington to meet with New Mexico's Tribal leaders and administration officials and discuss issues important to New Mexico's Tribes and Pueblos. Udall, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, discussed several issues with the N.M. Tribal leaders in attendance, including his support for securing just compensation in the wake of the Gold King Mine spill and other environmental justice issues; preventing the theft and illegal trafficking of cultural items; strengthening education; improving access to critical services like health care, clean water, and broadband internet; caring for veterans; and ensuring the federal government keeps its promise to engage in meaningful Tribal consultation on projects that affect Tribal lands and livelihood.

Following up on the last point, Udall sent a letter to President Obama after the meeting to emphasize the need to ensure Tribal voices are heard when it comes to siting and permitting federal infrastructure projects. After halting construction on a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota earlier this month, the Obama Administration committed to inviting Tribes to a formal government-to-government consultation about steps that can be taken to protect sacred lands, resources and treaty rights. The administration will hold several such sessions, including one in Albuquerque on Oct. 27. Such a meeting to improve consultation is much needed to better prevent the destruction or degradation of Tribal lands and culturally significant sites, Udall said in the letter.

"Tribal leaders in New Mexico have significant experience in this field and will have much to offer," Udall wrote. "I believe this process needs to be thorough, substantive and lead to concrete recommendations for how to ensure Tribal voices are included in significant decisions over siting and permitting infrastructure projects, especially when they impact Tribal land and/or culturally significant sites. Tribal consultation in federal permitting and the laws governing the preservation of historic Tribal sites and artifacts are of great significance, given our nation's history with Indian Country. As a representative of the Pueblos and Tribes of New Mexico, and as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I look forward to being a part of the discussion of improvements the Federal government can make to the existing Tribal consultation process and whether Congressional action is needed to reform current law."

A full copy of the letter is available here and below.


September 26, 2016

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, D.C.

Dear President Obama:

Thank you for hosting your eighth annual White House Tribal Nations Conference today in Washington. These events are important opportunities for the Tribes and Pueblos of New Mexico to visit with high level federal officials with key roles in policy affecting Native Americans. I appreciated the opportunity to attend and visit with Tribal leaders and members of your Administration.

Further, I welcome the Administration's announcement of formal, government-to-government consultations on how to improve Tribal input into Federal decision-making on all types of infrastructure projects. In particular, I look forward to the upcoming Tribal consultation session scheduled for October 27, 2016, in Albuquerque, N.M. Tribal leaders in New Mexico have significant experience in this field and will have much to offer. Such a conversation is much needed, and I believe this process needs to be thorough, substantive and lead to concrete recommendations for how to ensure Tribal voices are included in significant decisions over siting and permitting infrastructure projects, especially when they impact Tribal land and/or culturally significant sites.

Tribal consultation in federal permitting and the laws governing the preservation of historic Tribal sites and artifacts are of great significance, given our nation's history with Indian Country. As a representative of the Pueblos and Tribes of New Mexico, and as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I look forward to being a part of the discussion of improvements the Federal government can make to the existing Tribal consultation process and whether Congressional action is needed to reform current law.

Thank you again for hosting this event and moving forward with an important discussion about the need for reform of the Tribal consultation process.

Sincerely,

Tom Udall
United States Senator