By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will now be able to provide native plants for various projects due to the opening of the Native Plant Nursery Facility in the Birdtown Community. The 2,200 square foot facility was officially opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, July 22.
“For this Tribe and our people, I think this is very groundbreaking today,” said Forrest Parker, EBCI Deputy Operations Director, as he described the magnitude of the project.
“On behalf of the Principal Chief’s Office – he’s on travel today in D.C. – he wanted me to thank everyone who had a hand in this,” said Parker. “This means a lot to our people. It means a lot to this administration. This administration has been very committed to natural resources management…it’s just a very rewarding day. A project such as this benefits much more than just our environmental programs.”
Patrick Breedlove, project manager within the EBCI Office of Environmental and Natural Resources, commented, “This is a great day for me and our office.”
He thanked the many partners the Tribe had on this project including: EPA Region 4, Tennessee Valley Authority, RESCI, N.C. Forest Service, Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, Tennessee State Nursery, University of Tennessee – Chattanooga, University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and N.C. State University.
“No one person can take full credit for this project,” said Breedlove. “It is a combination of federal agencies, state agencies, tribal programs, and I just want to thank all of those.”
Breedlove gave a brief history of the project, “About three years ago, I did a cost analysis and thought that our program could grow native plants for our environmental-based projects rather than purchase them from an outside consultant. So, we presented this to EPA Region 4. They did agree and gave funding for this project (99 percent).”
He added, “This greenhouse is to propagate five native plant species including: silky dogwood, black willow, Carolina rhododendron, Catawba rhododendron, and mountain laurel. Over the past three years, we have installed about 75,000 plants so this facility is going to be critical, and one goal for our program, going forward, is to provide native plants for tribal projects and providing cultural significance to the projects on the reservation.”
Breedlove said it has been very important to everyone involved in the project that the facility be energy-efficient. All of the lights are LED and the heating and air conditioning units meet the Energy Star criteria.
“It is important for us to re-utilize rainwater as well,” he noted. “We are able to harvest all rainwater that comes off of the facility and all of the misting water in the facility. For all of the watering that goes on, we have a capturing unit and we are able to re-utilize that water.”
The facility itself encompasses a total of five acres with a 2.2 acre irrigated grow yard. There are currently 32,000 plants from 32 species in the inventory. “The goal of this facility is to do 80,000 cuttings per year; 40,000 cuttings twice a year.”
“Our goal for the next few years is to be self-sustaining in providing plants for our environmental projects and for our culturally-significant projects.”