Winter 2023: CBI in Action



Facilitating Tribal Participation in a Rio Grande River Basin Study

Western rivers and those who depend on them are increasingly at risk. Drought, wildfire, and flooding are putting ever more pressure on an already stressed water supply. In the Rio Grande Basin, which encompasses parts of southern Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas before entering Mexico, the federal government is leading a study to understand risks and potential adaptation strategies. To complete such studies, typically the Bureau of Reclamation partners with state, regional, and/or local stakeholders. But these years-long studies have rarely involved Native American tribes, even though tribes, central to the entire region’s system and users of the rivers for eons, are independent nations who hold many of the largest and oldest water rights on western rivers. 

The Pueblos in New Mexico represent 19 of the 23 Native tribes in the state. Each is a sovereign nation that’s lived and farmed in the Rio Grande Basin since time immemorial. For the Rio Grande Basin study in New Mexico, the state’s Pueblos are being asked in a virtually unprecedented way to help define the Basin’s water supply risks, needs, possible solutions, and values that must be protected in a future with less water.

Late this summer, the coalition of participating tribal governments brought in CBI as its facilitator. CBI will work with the Pueblos throughout 2024 to solicit feedback, vet ideas, and document collective tribal input for the Rio Grande Basin Study. One challenge is that in New Mexico, because many of the tribes’ water rights have still not been legally determined, there’s significant legal sensitivity regarding tribal water needs and uses. CBI is collaborating with the Pueblos to navigate these legal issues while ensuring the Pueblos can contribute meaningfully to the overall effort—and ultimately to help ensure that in ‘painting the picture’ of the Basin’s water future, the study not only recognizes the central role of the Pueblos in the Basin—past and present—but focuses on their ability to thrive.


A Clear Framework for Land-Based Carbon Emissions and Removals

The World Resources Institute’s Greenhouse Gas Protocol has provided a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions globally in public and private sectors. It has been widely adopted voluntarily by companies around the world as a tool for their carbon accounting. To assist companies in the agriculture and forestry value chains, the Protocol Secretariat and stakeholders have been developing protocols for tracking land-based greenhouse gas emissions and removals—both upstream (in agricultural and forest materials and land impacts) and downstream (in products). The final protocols can be used by companies that want to set targets and identify opportunities for mitigation through better land management practices. 

After two years of developing draft guidance with hundreds of stakeholders, the World Resources Institute brought in CBI to facilitate the final stages of deliberation and negotiation on the toughest remaining issues. These issues included accounting for carbon stored in products at the end of life (e.g., once sent to a landfill), accounting for and holding accountable companies seeking carbon sinks in natural settings beyond their direct control, and distinguishing anthropogenic carbon changes from climate or other natural causes (e.g., wildfire, warming temperatures). Following the three-and-a-half-day workshop with companies, experts, and non-governmental organizations from around the world, most remaining issues were resolved through intensive negotiations. Over the coming months, the accounting issues that did not reach near consensus will be taken up by an Advisory Committee that CBI has been asked to facilitate. The final Land Sector and Removals Guidance is expected to be released in early 2024. 


Monterey Wellness Collaborative

Mental health is crucial for public health. A recent study in The Lancet found that mental illness can drastically reduce life expectancy, and other studies have shown how nearly every other aspect of life—from work, to education, to family—can be adversely affected by mental illness.  In 2022, California’s Monterey County conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment and ranked mental health as the second priority for the county’s health needs. As an outgrowth of an existing Covid-19 Collaborative facilitated by CBI, the Community Foundation of Monterey County initiated a Community Wellness Collaborative to foster a wider understanding of the treatable nature of mental illnesses, along with a recognition that mental health must be cultivated across the lifespan, just like physical fitness.

The Community Wellness Collaborative’s central purpose is to bolster the importance of mental health and a culture of prevention and care with ready, equitable access in Monterey County.  

CBI has been facilitating the Community Wellness Collaborative to help meet those goals. Through Collaborative and Steering Committee meetings facilitated by CBI, a range of participants—from mental health professionals to families to businesses—have joined together to figure out how to advance the community’s commitment to mental health. Conversations and meetings have helped focus the collaborative on how, through collective action, the collaborative can create awareness of the causes and impacts of mental health for people of all ages; reduce stigma associated with mental illness; cultivate a pipeline of mental health practitioners; and help people of all incomes know where to turn for treatment reflective of their cultural and familial values. 


Carbon Sequestration in California

Carbon sequestration, a method for managing carbon emissions, has inspired all kinds of reactions, from hope to anxious skepticism. It involves injection of carbon dioxide into rock formations deep below the surface of the earth, and it has the potential to contain a vast amount of greenhouse gas emissions, but the process also has parallels to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which has raised concerns over earthquakes and water quality. In the past, oil and gas companies have used this method to create pressure underground to push out more oil. There are, then, debates about the effects of carbon sequestration on communities and the environment. There’s also the question of what happens to the carbon after it’s injected underground—who monitors it, and for how long?

Recently, California’s Air Resources Board has started a Carbon Capture, Removal, Utilization and Storage Program. The program will evaluate and adopt carbon removal policies, including policies for regulating carbon sequestration, tracking carbon storage, and supporting the development of new methods of carbon sequestration. For this program, CBI interviewed scientists, local government representatives, environmental justice advocates, landowners, and industry representatives about substantive issues—what was at stake, what the concerns were, and what mattered for the outcome. Working with California’s Department of Conservation, CBI has recommended that the state facilitate interest group meetings, industry meetings, and regional meetings, focused in Stockton and Bakersfield—locations with a major oil and gas industry presence—so that the state can establish how to draft a legal framework governing carbon sequestration. 


A New Approach to Whale Conservation

Blue corridors are migratory pathways crucial for whales’ survival—these are the routes by which whales access regions necessary for different stages of their lives. Directing whale conservation efforts to this sustaining, connective framework can have multiple benefits: it supports interrelated aspects of whales’ lives as well as overlapping ecological systems that rely on those connecting corridors. The World Wildlife Foundation has begun an initiative to direct conservation efforts on these corridors, emphasizing that the health of whale populations indicates the wider health of our oceans. The focus on such connective pathways relies on a range of perspectives: ecologists, biologists, conservationists, and fishing industry representatives can all help clarify how to protect blue corridors.

CBI has supported the World Wildlife Foundation’s Blue Corridors Conference, established to bring together that range of voices. Gathering in November in Washington, D.C., conference participants discussed innovations in fishing gear, shipping practices that can reduce harm to whale populations, global policy possibilities, and more. The WWF’s new strategy has now sparked conversations for ongoing collaborations and communication strategies across various global offices in the hopes of operationalizing Blue Corridors across seascapes.