Tribal land is a scarce resource, and tribal leaders often face competing demands concerning land use. Especially pressing are the potential tradeoffs between development and environmental stewardship. The Lummi Nation was eager to develop housing and commercial properties but wanted to make sure that these projects would not damage ecologically sensitive areas on the reservation. To help manage development on its lands, the nation created the first tribally operated commercial wetland mitigation bank in the country. The Lummi Wetland and Habitat Mitigation Bank sells mitigation credits to both tribal and non-tribal projects, helping the nation balance its development and preservation goals.
The Lummi Indian Nation established the Lummi Tribal Sewer and Water District in 1983 to ensure the Nation’s role in the provision of safe drinking water and discharge of clean wastewater across its reservation, located 100 miles north of Seattle. The District’s managerial, financial, and technical competence—emerging at a time when the Lummi Nation confronted serious challenges to its jurisdiction over non-tribally owned lands within the reservation—has enhanced tribal sovereignty while providing critical infrastructure services to the reservation’s five thousand Native and non-Native residents.