Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Leech Lake strengthens sustainability framework with new guidance

Electric vehicle, solar & net zero guides published

Guiding Leech Lake to
Sustainability

 

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has recently worked to prepare new guidance that strengthens and supports the Band’s journey as a sustainability and clean energy leader on the Reservation and beyond.

We spoke with Leech Lake’s Environmental Deputy Director Brandy Toft to learn more about the development of three new guides that build on past work. Created with support from a CERT Seed Grant, these new guides help advance local policies and action ranging from electric vehicle and solar readiness to creating pathways for net zero energy.

 

These living document guidances have given us… a starting point in establishing sustainable policies for the betterment of the Reservation and its people.

Brandy Toft, Environmental Deputy Director at Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

With a robust portfolio of projects completed, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe has become a natural leader in the sustainability and clean energy fields in Minnesota and for Tribes across the Midwest.

Notably, the Band recently installed the first 100% low-income community solar array in Minnesota, is active in the GreenStep Tribal Nations program, and has been an early adopter of clean energy technologies including solar furnaces, solar PV and electric vehicle charging stations.

“While we don’t always talk about it or are on the front page news, we’re quietly doing this work and being leaders,” said Brandy Toft, Environmental Deputy Director at Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, who has supported the tribal government’s air quality and sustainability initiatives for two decades. 

Recently, Toft worked with other staff and partners to synthesize the Band’s sustainability work into guidance that spans three key pillars of electric vehicles, solar, and energy savings in the built environment.

“These living document guidances have given us… a starting point in establishing sustainable policies for the betterment of the Reservation and its people,” Toft said.

Leech-Lake-Band-of-Ojibwe-Clean-Energy-Guide-Covers_0.png

Photo: Covers of three internal guidance documents created as part of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe's sustainability initiatives, which are helping the Band advance local policies and action ranging from electric vehicle and solar readiness to creating pathways for net zero energy.

A team effort

With support from a Central CERT Seed Grant, the Band hired paleBluedot LLC, a Maplewood-based climate and renewable energy consultancy, to help develop and tailor the guidance, policies, and ordinances over the past year to fit the community. Staff from five tribal government departments and members of the Leech Lake Green Team contributed to the project, as well.

“The people we had on the team were great. As much as they could dedicate their time, they did,” Toft said.

Regular presentations made during monthly Green Team Meetings helped inform the process of developing the guidance documents and contributed outside perspectives to the work.

“With our diverse group, we were able to gain perspective in a way from the community,” Toft said. “The reaction to date from the staff [and] community members has been very positive and supportive.”

While the team was limited in both capacity and in-person outreach activities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and received pushback from a few devil’s advocates along the way, they were not deterred.

“Plan for naysayers and you will have an educated rebuttal to most of their concerns,” Toft advised. “This moves your project forward instead of being stalled or worse stopped.”

Toft noted how members of the project team stepped up to defend their work in light of both hard questions and misinformation, which ultimately created a stronger project.

The people we had on the team were great. As much as they could dedicate their time, they did.

Brandy Toft, Environmental Deputy Director at Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Moving forward

With the guidance documents finalized, the project team plans to share their work with the Leech Lake Tribal Council this summer for consideration and adoption into policy. They will also continue broader community outreach efforts, including sharing updates with Tribal news partners.

Even as these related activities progress, staff now have a framework to keep the Band moving forward on future sustainability work and priorities.

“There is so much to do and so many cool things from environmental justice work to clean energy, coupled with the acknowledgement of climate change,” Toft said. “Opportunities are abound right now for us to take advantage of this moment. We’re going to keep progressing.”

Opportunities are abound right now for us to take advantage of this moment. We’re going to keep progressing.

Brandy Toft, Environmental Deputy Director at Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Project Snapshot

 
  • Clean Energy Focus: Solar-, Net Zero-, and EV-Ready
  • Central CERT Seed Grant: $5,000
  • Total Project Cost: $11,000
  • Other Funds: consultant in-kind contributions, tribal funds
  • Project Team: Brandy Toft, Ben Benoit, Eugene Strowbridge, Jon Barcenes, Lee Giffen, Alden Fairbanks, Amy Burnette, all with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe; Anthony Mazzini, GreenCorps Member serving with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe; Ted Redmond, paleBLUEdot LLC
  • People Involved and Reached: 1,334
 
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