Health program funding awaits Senate approval 'Other monies proposed for environmental protection'

SEATTLE – The Urban Indian Health Program has allocated $32.7 million in a spending

bill now before the Senate for approval.

The funding is included in the Senate’s 2007 Interior Appropriations bill, which was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee June 29. If approved, the bill would restore funding to the 34 urban Indian health centers across the nation. These centers provide culturally appropriate health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives living in urban areas.

The Bush administration eliminated Urban Indian Health Program funding from the president’s budget, saying that the services provided by the health centers are available to urban Indians at community health clinics. However, advocates say those programs would not address the unique cultural, health and social needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives residing in urban settings.

Advocates also say that eliminating or transferring funding would be contrary to a 1992 congressional policy to ensure “the highest possible health status for Indians and urban Indians and to provide all resources necessary to affect that policy.” Many American Indians and Alaska Natives live in urban areas because of the federal government’s relocation policy of the 1950s and 1960s.

If approved by the full Senate, the funding package would provide $4 million of the Seattle Indian Health Board’s $13 million annual budget.

Ralph Forquera, Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, is executive director of the Seattle Indian Health Board. He said he and his staff are conducting an analysis of what services to scale back or eliminate in the event of a funding loss. He said the $4 million pays for an infrastructure that generates an additional $9 million in grants and other funding.

“To manage multiple grants and programs and initiatives requires a substantial investment,” he said.

Washington state has two urban Indian health clinics: the SIHB in Seattle and the Native Project in Spokane. Services include medical and dental care; substance abuse prevention, education and treatment; AIDS and sexually transmitted disease education and prevention; mental health; nutrition education and counseling; a pharmacy; optometric care; social services; and home health care.

The SIHB also hosts a three-year Family Medicine Residency Program for new doctors, in partnership with the University of Washington School of Medicine. Instruction is augmented with traditional Native healing mentors.

The proposed funding is part of a $64 million funding package proposed for Washington state. While much of the money is allocated for land acquisition, preservation and restoration projects, a chunk of the funding would go to cultural, environmental and security programs in Washington’s Indian country.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. In a statement issued by her office, Murray said of the funding: “These federal dollars will help protect and preserve our state’s natural treasures while supporting economic growth and quality of life for Washington state residents.”

Some $2 million would be allocated to restoration of fish habitat and migration corridors along the Duwamish and Green rivers, from the headwaters in the Cascade Mountains to Elliott Bay on Puget Sound.

Some $1.5 million would be allocated to the Puget Sound Nearshore Restoration Study. The study is a regional effort of environmental organizations, industries and local, federal, state and tribal governments. Together, they are working to identify the most important and cost-effective restoration measures that can achieve ecological sustainability and maintain beneficial uses of natural resources in the Puget Sound region.

Some $1 million would fund the Forests and Fish Law work of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and its member tribes. The law provides science-based guidelines for improving fish habitat and protecting clean water in Washington’s forests, and is a collaborative effort of private forest landowners, tribal governments and county, state and federal governments. Its purpose is to protect salmon habitat and clean water on 60,000 miles of streams that flow through more than 8 million acres of private forestland.

According to www.forest sandfish.com, the Forests and Fish Law increases protection for fish habitat and water quality “by changing the way forest managers build and maintain roads, protect streams and unstable slopes, and monitor the effects of on-the-ground forest management activities.”

Fran Wilshusen, habitat service division manager of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, said Washing-tonians should give Murray “an ‘atta girl’” for her continued support of the program.

Maintenance dredging of Swinomish Channel would be allocated $627,000. The 11-mile channel separates Fidalgo Island and mainland Washington state. It provides access to the La Conner waterfront, Swinomish tribal commercial facilities and several marinas, and is used by recreational boaters and for log and barge towing.

The Lewis and Clark Station Camp at Lewis and Clark National Historic Park would receive $500,000 to purchase easements that will protect the camp from encroaching development.

Mark Elsbree, a vice president of The Conservation Fund, called the camp “one of America’s most historic places related to the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery and the Chinook Indian people.”

Some $400,000 would be allocated to the Colville and Spokane tribes for tribal enforcement of federal laws and regulations along Lake Roosevelt and its shoreline. The funding also supports the tribes’ provision of search and rescue services, park facilities construction and protection of archaeological and cultural sites.

The Colville and Spokane tribes, BIA, Bureau of Reclamation and National Park Service signed a cooperative management agreement in 1990.

The Upper Columbia United Tribes would receive $400,000 for their fish and wildlife management programs. This funding would help support the organization’s efforts regarding Endangered Species Act recovery, federal hydropower operations and Clean Water Act compliance.

The Upper Columbia United Tribes was formed in the late 1980s by the Colville Confederated, Coeur d’Alene, Kalispel, Kootenai and Spokane tribes.

In a bill submitted by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, $880,000 was allocated to finish the breakwater at Neah Bay, Makah Indian Nation. That appropriations bill also awaits full Senate approval.

<i>Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at 378-5696 or rmwalker@rock island.com.