U.S. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman acknowledged this week that it was “all too apparent that EPA needs to do more” to help tackle environmental problems on tribal lands. Whitman’s announcement came during the Sixth National Tribal Conference on Environmental Management, held this week in Sparks, Nev. The conference focuses on mining, water and air quality, and environmental justice issues, and attracts as many as 1,000 Native American leaders from around the country. Both Whitman and tribal leaders agreed that progress is being made on Native American environmental issues, but the consensus was that there is still a long way to go. Only about one in 10 tribes have solid waste management programs, and 83 tribes live in areas plagued by air pollution. Also during the conference, Whitman presented Washington state’s Swinomish Indian Tribal Community with a $1.2 million research grant — the biggest one ever given to a tribe — for studying the effects of exposure to toxins in shellfish. Overall, the EPA has earmarked $232 million for tribal programs.

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