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President Biden has approved a disaster declaration for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in northeastern Washington, making federal dollars available to the tribe to build back facilities damaged by summer wildfires.

The federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, according to The White House press release.

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One of the July wildfires, the Chuweah Creek fire, burned its way through four homes and 34,694 acres of the tribe’s timberland, The Spokesman Review reported at the time.  

It was the third major fire the Colville Reservation has sustained in six years, which directly correlates to the tribe’s economic development. Colville Tribal Chairman Andrew Joseph Jr told The Spokesman Review that 20% of the tribe’s finances come from logging.

In 2015, the tribe sued the federal government for failing to meet its trust obligations to the tribe when the tribe lost 20% of the commercial timber on the reservation. 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs is responsible for managing the forest health of Native American tribes.Their Branch of Wildfire Fire Management states its mission “is to execute our fiduciary trust responsibility by protecting lives, property, and resources while restoring and maintaining healthy ecosystems through cost-effective and creative fire-management programs, collaboration, and promoting Indian self-determination.”

“Wildfire is a regular natural phenomenon,” the tribe’s complaint reads. “However, the United States’ breaches of trust relating to the Tribes’ forests greatly increased the opportunity for, and the size and severity of, the North Star, Tunk Block, and other fires on the Reservation.”

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