$7 Million Invested in Clean Energy on Tribal Lands
Efficient lighting systems, solar panels and job opportunities are coming to tribal lands across the country, along with funds to support them.
The Obama Administration announced this month that it would fund nine clean energy projects on tribal lands from New York to Arizona with $7 million through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The awards will help American Indian and Alaska Native tribes deploy projects the department hopes will save the communities money in the long run, while enhancing energy security and creating jobs and new businesses.
“American Indian and Alaska Native tribes host a wide range of untapped energy resources that can help build a sustainable energy future for their local communities,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement. “Responsible development of these clean energy resources will help cut energy waste and fight the harmful effects of carbon pollution—strengthening energy security of Tribal nations throughout the country.”
American Indian land comprises 2 percent of the country's land, but contains 5 percent of all U.S. renewable energy resources, according to the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The projects competitively selected to receive include:
- Coeur d'Alene Tribe (Plummer, Idaho): The tribe will implement energy upgrades to refrigeration systems at its Benewah Market, helping to reduce energy consumption by about 30 percent.
- Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich’in Tribal Government (Fort Yukon, Alaska): The project will complete an energy efficiency retrofit to the tribe’s main office building, including building shell upgrades and the installation of efficient lighting and a solar electric system. These efforts could help reduce fuel oil use by nearly 50 percent, representing about 2,300 gallons per year.
- Forest County Potawatomi Community (Milwaukee, Wis.): The tribe will install solar panels on eight tribal facilities, displacing between 25 to 70 percent of the total energy used by each of the buildings.
- Menominee Tribal Enterprises (Neopit, Wis.): The tribe will install a biomass-fueled combined heat and power system to power the tribe’s sawmill and lumber drying operation. The project will help cut fuel oil use by more than 80 percent each year.
- Seneca Nation of Indians (Irving, N.Y.): The tribe will install a 1.8 megawatt wind turbine near Lake Erie. The turbine is expected to generate about 50 percent of the electricity used on the entire reservation.
- Southern Ute Indian Tribe Growth Fund (Ignacio, Colo.): This project will help install an 800-kilowatt solar energy system to provide energy to multiple Southern Ute buildings. This solar system could replace nearly 40 percent of the total fuel used in these buildings.
- Tonto Apache Tribe (Payson, Ariz.): The tribe will install solar arrays on three of the tribe’s buildings that consume the most energy, which would help meet more than 60 percent of the buildings’ total electricity needs.
- White Earth Reservation Tribal Council (White Earth, Minn.): This project will replace more than 60 percent of the fuel oil and propane currently used to heat the facility with the installation of a woody biomass-fueled boiler.
- Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska (Winnebago, Neb.): The tribe will install a solar energy system to help power the Winnebago police and fire building, providing about 30 percent of the building’s energy use. The solar system will also serve as an emergency backup power generator.
The DOE’s Tribal Energy Program has invested nearly $42 million in 175 tribal clean energy projects since 2002. In collaboration with the DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, the Tribal Energy Program provides financial and technical assistance to tribes for the evaluation and development of renewable energy resources, implementation of energy efficiency initiatives and education and training.
Visit EcoWatch’s RENEWABLES page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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