BOZEMAN – Recognizing that differences in language and tradition can prevent separate cultures from uniting toward a common goal, the Montana Pollution Prevention Program at Montana State University is working to incorporate traditional ecological practices of Indigenous peoples into pollution prevention programs for tribal communities.

The project will be funded by a $350,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, which was presented at MSU on Monday by Jennie Romer, EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for pollution prevention. Romer said that of all the pollution prevention, or P2, grants awarded nationwide, MSU’s “is one I wanted to be able to highlight” personally.

In presenting the award, Romer was joined by several Region 8 EPA officials at MSU’s American Indian Hall, a symbolic venue not just because the grant will benefit tribal communities but also because AIH is the first building in Montana to achieve the highest ranking in United States Green Building Council’s sustainability rating system, LEED Platinum 4.1.

“The building makes a statement – it’s a part of the environment, not apart from it,” said Walter Fleming, head of MSU’s Department of Native American Studies, as he showed off the building and grounds to the visitors. It was the first of many tours the EPA officials had in Bozeman as they took a firsthand look at the P2 work being done in the community under the auspices of the Montana Pollution Prevention Program, also known as MTP2.

While the grant will pay for the focus work in tribal communities, it also will fund two new components of MTP2’s EcoStar award program, through which area businesses are assisted with implementing pollution prevention measures to reduce solid and hazardous waste, maximize efficiencies, conserve energy and water, improve air quality and create more sustainable business models, said Jenny Grossenbacher, MTP2 director.

She explained that businesses in Montana’s Indigenous communities have been slower to embrace such practices, in large part due to cultural and language barriers.

“We realized we weren’t reaching as far as we hoped,” Grossenbacher said.

The grant work will be conducted by Lisa Lone Fight, an MSU alumna, current doctoral student and the senior science adviser of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, or MHA Nation, of North Dakota. Lone Fight, a member of the nation, said she was “raised in the context of biological science” by her scientist father while being gently schooled in traditional ecological knowledge by her grandmother.

Lone Fight’s work will be conducted in partnership with Salish Kootenai College in northwest Montana, and Grossenbacher said MTP2 also is interested in partnering with other Montana tribal colleges that express interest in the project.

The MSU grant is one of 39 awarded to recipients across the country that will receive nearly $12 million in pollution prevention grants funded by the $550 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which became law in November 2021.

For more information, email Jenny Grossenbacher .

- by Diana Setterberg, MSU News Service -

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