The Chickasaw Nation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently inked a “Tribal Environmental Plan” that could lead to federal funding for environmental projects important to the Chickasaw Nation.
Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Community Services Wayne Scribner was joined by Arturo Blanco, director, EPA Office of Environmental Justice, Tribal, and International Affairs of Dallas in signing the agreement, which lists five environmental areas the Chickasaw Nation will be monitoring.
The areas include safe drinking water, clean water, ambient air control, toxic substances control and additional water studies to monitor streams, lakes, ponds and other sources to ensure safety and quality control. Water is considered a vital natural resource by the Chickasaw Nation.
Secretary Scribner said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby provides steadfast leadership on issues affecting our environment.
“Governor Anoatubby is committed to working with the EPA to help ensure proper stewardship of our natural resources, which benefits the tribe, our local communities and the state of Oklahoma,” said Scribner. “He consistently provides the support we need to effectively address air and water quality issues. He is also at the forefront of cooperative efforts to establish long-term sustainable management of our water resources.”
Linda Robins, director of environmental services, said the 48-page document will enable the tribe to take full advantage of the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program, commonly referred to as GAP, which initially funds the efforts and provides guidance and support services to help the Chickasaw Nation reach goals and objectives expressed in the agreement.
After a year of EPA funding and guidance, the tribe assumes control of its initiatives via the 1975 Indian Self-Determination Act.
Two examples of GAP funding cited by Robins were the Chickasaw Nation ReUse Center and the Chickasaw Nation Environmental Camp.
"The Chickasaw Nation ReUse Center is a place where people can donate used items they no longer want as well as pick up needed items and materials. There is no charge for this service," Robins said. The ReUse center initially was started using EPA GAP funding but is now fully funded by the Chickasaw Nation, she added. Businesses, civic and community groups and individuals may drop off used building materials, office equipment, electronics, housewares and furniture.
The environmental camp was a critical topic of discussion between Blanco, Robins and Scribner during informal discussions prior to signing the agreement. Blanco was impressed with the Chickasaw Nation’s dedication in teaching children how to recycle, conserve water, open awareness of alternative gardening methods while also introducing them to a plethora of environmental techniques referred to as “best practices” in teaching sound environmental stewardship.
Additionally, the Chickasaw Nation used GAP funding as an outreach tool to inform citizens of environmental stewardship, Robins said. Both programs are now fully funded by the Chickasaw Nation.
An interesting element in the agreement is “ambient air” quality. Robins said the Chickasaw Nation wishes to test and evaluate the quality of air circulating at senior sites throughout the tribal territories. Success at this endeavor may lead to tribal experts beginning to test air outdoors as well, she said.
“We are blessed to have strong leaders in our tribe who recognize the importance of this program,” Robins said. “We have the support of Governor Anoatubby and Secretary Scribner in moving forward. Due to such leadership, we are able to accept GAP funding and apply it all toward our goals. Many tribes are not as fortunate and must take some of the GAP money to pay salaries which means less funding toward meeting and exceeding goals established in their agreements,” she added.