The Yurok Tribe, native to Northern California, demonstrates how tribal sovereignty, sustainable forest management, climate change mitigation, and cultural resilience can be advanced through tribal innovation and collaboration. Once custodians of over 200,000 hectares of territory, land grabs have left the Yurok with stewardship rights to only 10 percent of their ancestral home. In a groundbreaking partnership to secure new forms of finance, the tribe has allied with the state government of California to auction carbon credits from their sustainably managed forests through the state’s cap-and-trade program. The tribe’s participation in the program has enabled them to re-acquire an additional 20,200 hectares of lands within the Yurok ancestral territory from a large timber company, and will provide finance for ecosystem restoration and protection. These initiatives are interwoven with efforts to protect tribal livelihoods and cultures, as the Yurok view their identity, culture, and livelihoods as deeply interconnected with nature.
Equator Prize Winner: 2019
Location: Klamath, California, United States
Ecosystem: Forests, Wetlands and rivers