The Yurok Tribe has received recognition from the United Nations for its efforts to restore ancestral lands that were once clear-cut by the timber industry.
The Yurok Tribe is one of 22 winners to receive the United Nations Development Programme's Equator Prize. The tribe received the prize on Wednesday, selected from a pool of 847 nominees spanning 127 countries, according to a Yurok Tribe press release.
Created by the Equator Initiative, the Equator Prize acknowledges groups that are addressing climate change, environmental degradation and poverty using nature-based solutions, according to the press release. The 22 winners will be honored at a gala on Sept. 24, will receive $10,000 and be able to send two representatives to the 74th UN General Assembly.
The tribe received the award after spending about seven years re-acquiring 60,000 acres of forest that had been taken from the Yurok people in the late 19th century, according to the press release. Much of the woodlands had been clear-cut and scarred by logging roads, according to the release, impacting fish and wildlife.
The Yurok Tribe is working to return the forests to the conditions that existed before they were impacted by logging. The forests are currently managed for the production of traditional foods, medicines, basket materials and sequestration, according to the press release.
The centerpiece of the tribe's project is the development of the Yurok Old-Growth Forest and Salmon Sanctuary in the Blue Creek watershed, a tributary of the Klamath River.
"We are blending the knowledge of ancestors with contemporary science to fix our forests and improve ecosystem health within our homeland, said tribal Chairman Joseph L. James in a written statement. "We are grateful for the recognition of this essential endeavor."
According to a press release from the Equator Initiative, this is the first time the Equator Prize has been awarded to indigenous communities in the United States and Australia. Winners also include groups from Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Micronesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Tanzania and Vanuatu.
Since its inception in 2002, there have been Equator Prize winners from 223 communities across 78 countries.
For more information, visit www.equatorinitiative.org.