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Recycling program draws acclaim in tribal study 'Bad River Band is a finalist for a national award announced in October'

DULUTH, Minn. (MCT) – In Indian belief, things flow in circles. So it isn’t surprising that some American Indians would embrace recycling.

The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Band of Chippewa is receiving national attention for its recycling and solid waste program. The northern Wisconsin band’s Recycling/Solid Waste Department is one of 14 tribal programs nationwide selected as finalists by Honoring Nations, a program administered by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development.

Founded at Harvard University in 1987, the project studies social and economic development programs on Indian reservations to determine what works and why. Honoring Nations presented its first awards in 1999.

“The whole purpose is to recognize good practices with the hope that it will help inspire other nations,” Honoring Nations director Amy Besaw said.

The 14 finalists will be honored Oct. 3 at the Honoring Nations Board of Governors meeting in Sacramento, Calif. Up to seven “high honors” and seven “honors” recipients will be announced.

Eighty-six tribal programs entered this year’s competition.

“Bad River stood out in each of the areas that we evaluate the programs on – effectiveness, significance to sovereignty, cultural relevance, transferability and sustainability,” Besaw said. “What we saw was a tribal government dedicating scarce resources to something that mattered to them.”

Besaw visited Bad River in July. She was impressed with the level of outreach and citizen participation in the program.

“We developed this right from the grass roots,” said Don Corbine, manager of Bad River Tribe Recycling Solid Waste Department. “It’s a good, solid environmental program.”

Created in 1989, the department provides curbside recycling throughout the reservation to about 630 households and 22 businesses and tribal departments.

“We have had good response from households,” achieving a recycling rate of about 98 percent, Corbine said.

“We don’t see the illegal dumping we used to; it’s noticeable,” he said.

In addition to its recycling efforts, the department has educated people about how much pollution comes from burn barrels. It’s had burn barrel buybacks, abandoned car removals, household hazardous waste collections and spring cleanups.

“All these things we do ... what it boils down to is the nature, the beauty of this land, protecting our natural resources,” Corbine said.

<i>Copyright 2006, Duluth News-Tribune, Minn. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.