Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order Thursday to improve how the state receives and evaluates input from tribal nations when mulling permits related to environmental, historic or cultural resources.
The executive order directs four agencies to draft a policy within 90 days that lays out a process for consulting tribal nations before a permit is issued or denied.
The Northam administration said the process will help the state better identify and understand potential concerns before permits are finalized.
Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin will be inaugurated a month before Northam's deadline, and the incoming administration could easily wipe away the executive order if it chooses to. The Youngkin transition did not immediately respond to comment on this order.
The executive order also calls on the secretary of the commonwealth to designate an ombudsman who will serve as a go-between for tribal nations and state agencies.
“The commonwealth has an important and unique government-to-government relationship with Virginia’s tribal nations,” Northam said in a statement. “Tribal nations have always been integral to the cultural and historic fabric of Virginia, and this order is among the first steps that will affirm tribal sovereignty and enhance relationships between our governments.”
Northam signed the order Thursday evening alongside the chiefs of seven federally recognized tribal nations in the state: the Chickahominy Indian Tribe, the Chickahominy Indian Tribe-Eastern Division, the Monacan Indian Nation, the Nansemond Indian Nation, the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, the Rappahannock Tribe, and the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe.