From left, Maxine Littlejohn, Kelly Ferguson, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Chairman Vincent Armenta. (Mark Velasquez photo)

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency visited the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ reservation on Thursday to learn more about the tribe’s award-winning environmental programs and conservation efforts.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy heard from Santa Ynez Chumash Environmental Office Director Kelly Ferguson on the numerous environmental and conservancy efforts. They included pollution prevention, solar energy programs, water quality monitoring, resource conservation, climate mitigation, zero-waste community events and the Chumash Casino Resort’s food waste diversion program, among others.

McCarthy, joined by Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta and Business Committee member Maxine Littlejohn, also toured the reservation, where she got a firsthand look at the tribe’s rooftop solar projects, electric vehicle charging stations, sustainable drought-tolerant landscaping, and an in-process home energy upgrade and training.

“You have done some wonderful work that you should be very proud of,” McCarthy said. “It’s amazing the leadership that you have provided and it’s an example that we hopefully can take lessons from and figure out how the EPA can be a continually better partner with the tribes and how the federal government as a whole can meet our trust responsibilities more effectively.”

McCarthy added that communication between the federal government and tribes is something President Obama cares a lot about and “wants to make sure in his time at the helm of this country that he has an ability to bring more lasting relationships.”

“It’s really good to know that we’re under an administration that is concerned and understands the responsibilities the federal government has toward tribes,” Chairman Armenta said. “It’s also nice to know that our accomplishments and leadership in the environmental field are being noticed. We are very proud of the excellent work by our environmental office and our Chumash Casino Resort’s facilities’ team.”

The SYCEO works with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ tribal government and community members to maximize efficient energy and water use, reduce waste and improve the natural and built environment.

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is a self-governing tribal sovereign nation. The Santa Ynez reservation is located in Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County. The reservation was established and officially recognized by the federal government on Dec. 27, 1901.

— Hildy Medina is the public relations manager for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.