By Micah Escamilla
It can be said that for the San Manuel Environmental Department (SMED), every day is Earth Day.
Currently a four-person crew, the small but mighty SMED team works daily to protect Tribal lands and resources on the San Manuel Reservation through unwavering stewardship and community outreach. The team accomplishes this by performing tasks such as seed gathering, solid waste programs, water sampling, vector monitoring, recycling, and more. Such projects allow the team to carry out the Tribe’s spirit of Yawa,’ “to act on one’s beliefs,” by working to create a better tomorrow for all people.
Environmental Manager, Clifford Batten, says that the great environmental care shown through the Tribe’s actions makes working for the Tribe one of his most rewarding experiences.
“I share these values,” Batten says. “It aligns our goals and makes for a formidable force for environmental stewardship. I firmly believe that because of the Tribe’s trust and engagement, what I do makes a significant difference in maintaining a balance between preserving past natural treasures and embracing the future in a sustainable manner.”
One SMED project that reflects a past, present, and future mindset is seed gathering. The goal of this project is to have a complete seed bank that includes seeds of all the native plants associated with the Reservation. According to Batten, the seed bank will allow for replanting and propagating native plants to increase the biodiversity on the Reservation, “to keep it at status quo rather than the land being taken over by invasive species or changed due to variations in climate.” SMED also maintains a small greenhouse to make sure saplings and small plants are available for immediate projects around the Reservation for the same purpose.
SMED also holds four annual solid waste events: household hazardous waste (residents only) held in January, an electronic waste disposal event in April, a shredding event in August, and a used clothing and shoe event in November.
Last week, SMED held their E-Waste collection event which allows employees and Tribal residents to dispose of electronic devices they no longer use such as cell phones, cameras, and laptops. The items are then picked up by the Southern California Mountains Foundation, a local nonprofit that works with local organizations to donate the items that are still in working order.
The newest endeavor SMED is developing is an air quality program. Three air quality sensors were recently installed on the Reservation for the purpose of measuring particulate matter (PM), according to Assistant Manager Chris Manzano. With the Inland Empire being no stranger to fires, the sensors will function as part of an alert system that would advise residents and employees to stay indoors when air quality is poor.
Directed by the Tribe, the San Manuel Environmental Department continues to take steps each day to be good stewards of natural resources for the betterment of the Tribe and the broader community. Their contributions also shine a light on some of the unique roles within the enterprise.