Research shows that westerners will face more days of unhealthy air due to wildfire smoke.
And there’s growing recognition that smoke doesn’t just affect the air we breathe outside – it often creeps indoors.
A new grant could bolster some tribal buildings against smoke.
Boise State Public Radio’s Rachel Cohen reports from Idaho for the Mountain West News Bureau.
Last August, a wildfire burned just minutes away from the Clearwater Memorial Library in Orofino.
It ended up destroying six houses.
Library director Jessica Long says some families were sheltering across the street and came over to read books and play games.
“Having a place that has clean air and is safe for them and their kids. I think that was important.”
Black smoke clouded the air.
Long set up a DIY air filter inside.
Soon, the library will become even more of a refuge.
The Nez Perce Tribe was awarded a $1.3 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to better protect community buildings from wildfire smoke.
Julie Simpson coordinates the tribe’s air quality program.
“People are not going to necessarily go to a newly established location during a wildfire smoke event. They will want to stay in their own homes, or they’re going to want to go to a regular public place.”
The grant will go toward deploying air filters, setting up air monitoring, and renovating HVAC systems in 16 buildings on the reservation, including libraries like in Orofino, community centers, and youth centers.
The Coeur d’Alene Tribe has come to an historic agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration to address how dams in the Columbia Basin have affected fish populations on the tribe’s northern Idaho reservation.
Spokane Public Radio’s Steve Jackson has more.
The tribe and the Bonneville agency have been in discussions for several years related to challenges in the way the dams have been managed and how the historic fisheries in the region have been hurt.
Under the agreement, the BPA will help provide $10 million per year for restoring stream habitat for salmon runs and $45 million for two fish hatcheries.
One hatchery will be on Hangman Creek for salmon stock; the other on Lake Coeur d’Alene for cutthroat trout.
Tyrel Stevenson, the tribe’s legislative director, says the real game changer is the federal government’s willingness to work with the tribes to try to restore salmon runs.
“We’ve identified a problem, and this is how to fish over those dams. So now were working together to try to figure it out. And we’ve got some funding. And we’ve got a common goal. Whereas before, it felt to the tribes like the federal government didn’t want to talk about fish passage.”
The Coeur d’Alene tribe has already been working on an experimental program to release Chinook salmon into waterways the fish haven’t been in since completion of the Little Spokane Dam, back in 1910.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $25 million for tribal clean energy projects through the Office of Indian Energy.
Applications are open through May 30 for tribes, Alaska Native corporations, and tribal organizations.
According to the DOE, the new funding is intended to help tribal communities deploy clean energy technology, lower energy costs, and increase energy sovereignty.
The announcement was made Tuesday at the 2024 Tribal Clean Energy Summit taking place in California.
Director of the Office of Indian Energy Wahleah Johns made the announcement.
She invited attendees to learn more about her office and take advantage of opportunities they provide including tribal assistance, grants, and outreach.
The summit continues Wednesday featuring speakers, breakout sessions, and on-site DOE hours.