Kori Ellien, the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program’s Enforcement, Response and Education Division Manager, was selected to serve on the U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s Tribal Waste and Response Steering Committee, an advisory board comprised of subject matter experts from federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Villages.
The primary function of the Steering Committee is to facilitate two-way communication between Native American environmental protection agencies and senior U.S. Environment Protection Agency staff for the purpose of ensuring that tribal perspectives are embedded into the agency’s objectives surrounding solid waste. This expansive topic includes the proper management and disposal of municipal, agricultural and industrial refuse as well as construction and demolition debris, dangerous chemicals and electronic waste. The Steering Committee also seeks to develop novel methods of minimizing the quantity of items that end up in landfills.
“It is a privilege to be in a position to improve the US Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to assist Tribes in addressing environmental challenges throughout the US,” Ellien said. “Tribes hold many of the solutions to resolve the most intractable ecological issues of the 21st century. Together with the federal government, Tribes like the Yurok Tribe, are implementing creative measures to resolve these complex issues.”
“Kori is going to be a huge asset for the U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s Tribal Waste and Response Steering Committee because of her broad diversity of relevant experience,” said Louisa McCovey, the Director of the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program.
In addition to promoting coordination between tribal and federal environmental protection professionals, the Steering Committee produces an annual document, which sets priorities in the following areas: Superfund, solid waste, underground storage tanks, brownfields and other contaminated sites. The guiding document is provided to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency’s Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM), the National Tribal Caucus, other Environment Protection Agency Partnership Groups, and the environmental community to encourage dialogue on environmental policy and support systemic change.
Ellien is the first Yurok representative to serve on the committee. Born and raised in Hoopa, she moved home to work for the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program in 2018. Prior to joining the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program, Ellien was a supervisor for the City of Corpus Christi’s Storm Water Environmental Quality Department, where she was responsible for conducting criminal and civil environmental investigations into crimes involving the improper disposal of solid waste, industrial waste, and hazardous substances. Ellien was also a ranking member of the city’s incident command team during large- and small-scale disasters affecting the health and safety of residents. Additionally, she developed and implemented public education and outreach programs, which is one of her roles with Yurok Tribe Environmental Program too.
For the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program, Ellien has conducted water quality monitoring and assessments on the Klamath River and its tributaries in a scientific and defensible manner. She worked with the Yurok Office of the Tribal Attorney to modify the Tribe’s Abandoned Vehicle Code and created a mechanism for community members to conveniently recycle old automobiles. In 2019, the highly motivated Manager started serving as a Tribal Environmental Enforcement Instructor for Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals. Ellien recently collaborated with the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program’s Pollution Prevention and Food Sovereignty Divisions on the creation of environmental education stories focusing on the importance of protecting the earth and continuing good stewardship. Ellien has been a driving force behind the Yurok Tribe Environmental Program’s Environmental law enforcement program. Launched this year, the program is tasked with enforcing environmental regulations on the Yurok Reservation in a manner that is consistent with the Tribe’s cultural values.
The Yurok Tribe Environmental Program's (YTEP) mission is to protect the lands, air and water resources of the Yurok Reservation for the benefit of current and future generations of tribal members. The Yurok Tribe Environmental Program is comprised of the four divisions, including: Water, Community and Ecosystems, Pollution Prevention and Enforcement, Response and Education.