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Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy

Abstract

Ocean acidification will have profound effects on the entire human population and natural resources that depend in any way upon Earth’s oceans and lakes. In turn, those effects will be even greater, and potentially catastrophic, for indigenous populations who rely on the seas for physical, cultural, and spiritual sustenance. While most research on carbon dioxide absorption from the atmosphere has focused on oceans and the resulting acidification, many believe that acidification levels also will also increase in the Great Lakes. Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes regions share reliance on marine and freshwater resources, and many treaties contain provisions reserving off-reservation access to these resources. These treaties have consistently been interpreted as the Indians would have understood them, with any ambiguities interpreted in favor of the tribes. While many tribes have fought off incursions on their territories and treaty rights in particular cases, the threats from greenhouse gases and ocean acidification call for even greater efforts due to extensive tribal rights in affected waters and resources. This battle also requires a major effort on the part of the United States government.

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