OPINION: Leading the way in environmental preservation

BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
09/01/2017 12:00 PM
Preserving and defending our culture and values is important to all of us as Cherokees. One of our biggest responsibilities is protecting the air, water, land and habitat of our natural world. All Cherokees should feel an innate desire to protect these resources for our current and our next seven generations. It’s our sacred obligation.

Instead of being part of the problem that contributes to more global climate change and decay, we are taking the lead in becoming part of the solution and looking for forward-thinking ways to preserve our natural resources. I recently signed two new executive orders that will take steps toward better protecting our natural resources.

The first will reduce the carbon emissions of our tribal operations by 25 percent by the year 2027. Scientific evidence tells us that global climate disruption is threatening our very existence. Continuing to put more pollutants in the air is devastating to Mother Earth. As part of our efforts to lower carbon emissions, we have entered into a major wind energy project that will provide 200 megawatts of clean energy.

We are also constructing a solar energy canopy at the tribal headquarters that will provide clean energy to the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, and it will allow visitors and employees the opportunity to charge electric vehicles.

The second executive order limits the use of Styrofoam. Styrofoam is a source of trash that has long-term negative effects for our environment, including our waters. Going forward, we will use recyclable or compostable materials whenever we can so that we’re not leaving today’s problems for future generations to solve.

We will never stop looking for ways to protect this beautiful earth that our Creator gave us. Almost two years ago I appointed Sara Hill, our first-ever secretary of Natural Resources, to proactively protect the future of our water and all of our natural resources. I encourage everyone to put more thought into their daily actions. One way to do that is to look for ways to avoid using Styrofoam at home and at work, and take the pledge to avoid using it whenever you can. I hope our partners will follow our lead and join us in making this commitment.

Cherokee Nation remains a leader in Indian Country when it comes to environmental programs. We will use a $300,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to create a national tribal mentoring program that focuses on the development and reporting of water quality assessments.

CN staff will help tribes across the country use a new EPA reporting tool. This online system allows states, territories, tribes, the EPA and other partners to submit water quality data using an integrated reporting process.

During the past year, we have been active within our 14 counties and across Indian Country when it comes to the conservation of water. Now, with this grant from the EPA, a new door has been opened for our environmental programs. Tribes across the country will have a strong mentor and partner in the CN. Not only does the CN depend on the technical ability and excellence of our Environmental Programs staff, but tribes across the country depend on them, too.

Our environmental programs will play a vital role in educational efforts and outreach to tribal water programs. We are looking forward to working with various EPA regional water programs and tribal water staff across the nation.

Remaining a leader in environmental preservation supports CN’s economic, social and cultural well-being and balance. This charge will always remain one of our greatest obligations.

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