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The Long View: Developing a 500-year Climate Adaptation Plan with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Nantahala National Forest. Credit: Alan Cressler, USGS

Project Information

Principal Investigator: Jelena Vukomanovic (North Carolina State University)
Project Start: November 2023
Proposed Project Completion: December 2027
Implements Science Plan Theme: Adaptation
Caleb Hickman (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma)
Adam Terando (Southeast CASC)
Jennifer Costanza (USFS)
Marie Schaefer (US EPA)
Mitchell Eaton (Southeast CASC)

Mike LaVoie (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians)


Cherokee Peoples have had a sustained presence in the southern Appalachians over the past 12,000 years, with a peak population of about 250,000 people inhabiting approximately 32 million hectares across Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Early contact with European settlers caused drastic population declines and land loss, due to disease, land cession, and the relocation of people to western reservations. Today, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) comprises 16,000 citizens who maintain approximately 24,000 hectares of land known as the Qualla Boundary. 

The EBCI hold a distinct perspective informed by a multi-generational connection to place and to a collective past. This way of thinking encourages a tribal ethos of managing natural resources not just for the well-being of current community members, but also for well-being of people seven generations into the future. Given persistent global change, tribal leaders, staff, and engaged partners need new ways to anticipate needs beyond the traditional planning time-scales of one generation (30 years).  

This project will convene a working group of EBCI staff, EBCI- and Southeast CASC-affiliated researchers, and other federal and state agencies to develop a multi-generational adaptation plan. To build this plan, the project team will co-develop an understanding of community needs and priorities, how the availability of resources may change in the future, and the potential impacts of long-term climate change on valued resources. This understanding will come from multiple approaches, including community involvement through workshops and surveys, Indigenous research methodologies, and modeling scenarios of global warming, land-use change, and resource dynamics.  

The produced plan will contain a portfolio of possible future scenarios, community-supported management strategies, associated risks and benefits, and infographics and visualizations of possible natural and cultural resource futures. Tribal citizens, resource managers, and local-regional governments can use the plan to inform natural resource management decisions.