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Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (Tribal-FERST): A Resource for Tribes

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EPA works to protect human health and the environment of federally recognized Tribes by supporting implementation of federal environmental laws and helping tribes administer their own environmental programs. These efforts are consistent with the federal trust responsibility, the government-to-government relationship, and EPA's 1984 Indian Policy.

Tribes face unique and numerous environmental and human health challenges. As Tribal leaders work to build and enhance environmental safeguards in their communities, user-friendly, science-based tools can contribute to sustainable solutions. Tools developed by and for Tribes are needed to help them and their partners identify and learn about environmental issues, explore exposure and risk reduction options, and conduct Tribal assessmentsall of which are important in decisions to improve public health and the environment.

One such tool is the Tribal-Focused Environmental Risk and Sustainability Tool (Tribal-FERST).

What is Tribal-FERST

Tribal-FERST is an online information and GIS mapping tool designed to provide tribes with easy access to the best available human health and ecological science.

How Was Tribal-FERST Developed?

The United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) is partnering with EPA to develop Tribal-FERST, and connect EPA’s water quality exchange database and data transfer network with Tribal-FERST. USET is reaching out to Tribes and partners throughout the United States, representing a wide range of interests and issues in Indian Country, to provide the design and content for Tribal-FERST. They will also provide training to Tribes and work with them to identify needs, applications, and results from using Tribal-FERST.   

The Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Tribe of Maine pilot tested a Beta version of Tribal-FERST as part of its sustainable and healthy community effort. The collaboration drew together Tribal members, EPA, and the Tribe’s sustainable community planning consultants, to make informed environmental and economic decisions about solid waste, sea level rise, and subsistence diet. At the same time, the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Tribe provided input to improve Tribal-FERST.  USET is using this input to develop a pre-release version of Tribal-FERST, which is being enhanced through information collected and lessons learned in this and other pilot studies, to make it broadly applicable for other Tribes as well.

What Information is in Tribal-FERST?

In Tribal-FERST, users follow a Tribal roadmap to identify priority issues, compile data, explore options to reduce exposures and risks, and assess impacts of actions taken. The Tribal-FERST roadmap puts data, information and potential solutions in context for Tribal community decision-making and takes users through recommended steps for conducting a Tribal community assessment.  At each step, relevant information is provided, such as:

  • environmental issue profiles for specific environmental, health or other Tribal issues of concern;
  • a Tribal community data table providing quantitative information on exposures and risks for the local area, county, and state;
  • Tribal assessment guides integrating traditional Tribal knowledge and western science;
  • a GIS mapping component with information on pollution sources, estimated concentrations, exposures and risks for select pollutants, demographic data and other key community characteristics;
  • access to information about options for reducing exposures and risks and projects implemented by other communities and Tribes; and
  • links to other tools relevant to Tribal environmental decision-making.

The Tribal-FERST GIS mapping component enables the user to view and overlay demographic information with publicly available data, including environmental concentrations, human exposures, health risks, ecosystem services, sustainability indicators, and sources of pollution. Tribes have the option to overlay locally collected data, and save this to their own ESRI account.

Tribal-FERST is intended to empower tribes by providing access to relevant science that can be used to develop sustainable, cost-effective solutions for reducing environmental exposures and health risks. Using this online tool, tribes can employ a holistic approach to address environmental concerns and plan for the future.

For more info about Tribal-FERST, contact: TFERSTmail@epa.gov

Tribal Leads:
Steve Terry  (sterry@usetinc.org
Harrell French (hfrench@usetinc.org)

EPA Leads:
Kenneth Bailey, M.En.  (bailey.ken@epa.gov)
Dan Heggem (heggem.dan@epa.gov)
Monica Rodia (rodia.monica@epa.gov)