SUBMITTED By SHANNON SWIMMER
CHEROKEE PRESERVATION FOUNDATION
Cherokee Preservation Foundation convened tribal employees, community members and other partners participating in the community-wide planning effort known as Generations Qualla on March 18 so they could update the community on actions being taken to support a healthy, sustainable environment on the Qualla Boundary.
Generations Qualla was untaken to support the Qualla Environmental Resources Initiative proclaimed by Principal Chief Michell Hicks several years ago.
At the March 18 meeting, Chief Hicks thanked Generations Qualla participants and Cherokee Preservation Foundation for keeping environmental sustainability a major focus for the tribe. “We can’t forget about the health of who we are as a people,” Chief Hicks said.
Here is a summary of the updates provided at the meeting:
• The Cherokee Youth Council, with support from the Tribal Recycling Center and Tribal Housekeeping, has finished putting recycling containers in tribal offices, break rooms and building exteriors, as well as training tribal government employees about what can be recycled. Cherokee Youth Council members have sharpened their public speaking skills in the process.
• A $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy has been awarded as a match to $200,000 provided by the Tribe and Cherokee Preservation Foundation. The funds will be used to achieve at least a 30% reduction of energy consumption and cost savings at seven tribal buildings. The opportunities for significant savings were identified during 20 audits of tribal buildings undertaken through a $52,000 grant from Cherokee Preservation Foundation.
• Cherokee Transit is using a $200,000 grant from Cherokee Preservation Foundation to increase the number of transit stops and expand its programming so vehicle usage in the downtown area of Cherokee can be reduced.
• A Strategic Energy Committee comprised of tribal government employees is assessing wind energy opportunities on the Qualla Boundary. Their first step is to measure wind speeds at several sites to determine if any of the sites offer feasible options for the Tribe.
• An EPA grant has been awarded that will enable the Tribe to install equipment on the Qualla Boundary that will convert conventional fuel to biodiesel in quantities sufficient for the needs of Cherokee Transit and the EBCI Department of Transportation.
• By the end of April, tribal government employees plan to submit a green building standard for commercial buildings to Chief Hicks.
• Indoor air quality assessments of tribal buildings are underway. Baseline measurements are being undertaken, and then after energy upgrades to these buildings take place, new measurements will be taken to make sure that air quality is still good even though the buildings have become more air tight.
• The Sequoyah Fund is serving as a facilitator to help the Tribe establish a site that will simultaneously cultivate new businesses and show green leadership.
• A two-day Cherokee language immersion camping experience focused on environmental sustainability and culture values is being planned.
• Haywood Community College is the only one of 48 community colleges in the state that offers students an opportunity to earn a green building certificate. The school also offers a low impact development program, and a grant from Cherokee Preservation Foundation is enabling students to access some of the courses online.
• The Mountain Landscapes initiative, a regional planning process to understand and address mountain land use challenges, has resulted in a toolbox of planning and development solutions that communities in the seven-county area are beginning to use. Once the economy rebounds, state monies are expected to be available to implement solutions to beautify the U.S. 441 Corridor.
To date, Cherokee Preservation Foundation has awarded grants totaling $1.6 million in support of Generations Qualla. Additional grant proposals supporting Generation Qualla initiatives are expected to be submitted to the Foundation before its next grant cycle deadline on June 6.