Michael Bolt, United South and Eastern Tribes’ water expert, has been appointed to President Barack Obama’s National Ocean Council Governance Coordinating Committee where he will be a new advocate and voice for eastern woodland Indigenous Peoples.
Bolt, who served on the USET’s Natural Resources Committee as secretary for three years and now as its chair, and who also chairs the organization’s Wastewater and Laboratory Analysts Certification Board, has been appointed by the president for a two year term.
Obama created the Cabinet-level national Ocean Council by Executive Order in July 2010, to coordinate ocean policy across the federal government. In February 2011, the council established the inter-governmental Governance Coordinating Committee (GCC) to serve as the key coordinating body on inter-jurisdictional ocean policy issues. The 18-member GCC members are selected from a pool of nominees submitted by state governors and tribal and local officials. The committee includes three at-large tribal representatives, one state representative from each of nine regional planning areas, one state legislative representative, two at-large representatives from inland states, and three local government officials from coastal states.
USET President Brian Patterson said in a media release that the organization was proud of Bolt’s appointment on the GCC. “USET works to improve the way of life in Indian country through economic development, health and medical programming, housing, emergency management, social services, and natural resources. All of those initiatives will be meaningless if we do not have a sound environment,” Patterson said. “We must be ready to address today’s issues and be prepared for the next seven generations. We believe Michael’s experience, education, and character will proudly serve Indian country. Our relationship with the federal government, our tribes, and community at large are paramount to accomplishing our goals at USET.”
Bolt is a seasoned technician, operator, analyst and manager of water treatment and wastewater treatment. Bolt has superlative knowledge and education on environmental and ecological systems and related issues. He worked as a wastewater operator in the southeast United States for more than 20 years. He earned a Higher National Diploma (the equivalent of a master’s degree) in public administration from Wiltshire Technical College in England and has almost completed postgraduate studies in environmental law and management at the University of Wales.
In addition to his committee and board work with USET, Bolt serves as vice chair of the National Tribal Water Council and on the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico’s Hypoxia Task Force.
“I think it’s a great honor to serve on the GCC because, hopefully, my experiences with the other committees will enhance the problem-solving capacity especially with regard to the tribal interests with the coastline being eroded in the manner it is in certain parts of the country,” Bolt said. “This is a big issue.”
The GCC is indeed charged with major environmental challenges: the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, climate change, and the problems created by BP’s disastrous Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. “These are the kinds of issues that have such a detrimental effect on the wonderful resource we have out there,” Bolt said. “To me the Gulf of Mexico is like the cradle of life. That’s a resource well deserving of our protection.”
Several tribes in Alaska and USET tribes in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island are directly affected by variables in the ocean with some tribes experiencing extensive difficulties from erosion and pollution. All tribes will feel the direct effects of climate change that is brought about through rising ocean levels and an increase in water temperature, Bolt said. “The GCC works to make effective changes to legislation that will identify and implement solutions for these issues. My goal is to make sure that tribes are included in these processes and that they are consulted so their voice is at the table,” he said.
Bolt will serve with other committee members with expertise in environmental and oceanic issues. The National Ocean Policy establishes a cooperative planning process among federal, state, tribal, and local authorities, and solicits extensive input from the public and stakeholders for approaches that are tailored to the unique needs of each region. It is designed to foster communication among all levels of government, save taxpayer dollars by eliminating waste, and reduce the conflict and inefficiency resulting from various federal agencies implementing a maze of nearly 100 different laws, policies and regulations affecting the oceans.
USET Executive Director Kitcki Carroll said Bolt’s appointment to the National Ocean Council Governance Coordinating Council is important not just to USET tribes, but to all of Indian country. “We will continue to have a strong voice in shaping policy that will ultimately give definition to our communities,” Carroll said.
Founded in 1969, USET is a non-profit, intertribal organization that collectively represents 26 member tribes at the regional and national level. USET dedicated to promoting Indian leadership, improving the quality of life for American Indians, and protecting Indian rights and resources on tribal lands.