This week, EBCI is hosting the Southeast Regional Wetlands Workshop – the first time a tribe has ever hosted this event east of the Mississippi River!

The conference, which is being held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, consists of three days of talks, roundtables, and field trips. Several Cherokee Natural Resources staff delivered talks on Tuesday, kicking off with a keynote address from Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Joey Owle. He addressed the EBCI’s recent achievements and the importance of environmental work. Natural Resources Manager Mike LaVoie spoke next on the incredible biological diversity of Cherokee’s waterways, highlighting our efforts to conserve Southern Appalachian brook trout, hellbenders, sicklefin redhorse, and freshwater mussels.

Our Water Quality office marked a major milestone this spring with the approval of our own Tribal water quality standards, which protect the use of Cherokee waters for ceremonial uses as well as our public drinking water supply and recreational waters. We can also now require that our neighbors meet those standards if they’re discharging any water through Cherokee lands. Water Quality Section Supervisor Michael Bolt described the unique challenges these new standards will help us address and the process it took us to get here.

Finally, Environmental Laboratory Technician Heather Gregory described her efforts in developing the Tribe’s Wetlands Program Plan in collaboration with United Southern and Eastern Tribes (USET). When implemented, this program will help us keep track of Cherokee’s wetlands and establish water quality standards specific to them.

What’s so special about wetlands? They’re a hotspot of biological diversity, from plants to birds to amphibians and other aquatic life. And they’re also a critical safety valve in our hydrologic system, acting like sponges during flood events to slow down and absorb excess water.

Aside from a strong showing of EBCI staff, conference attendees are here from all over the southeast region, and many have commented on how impressed they are with the beauty of Cherokee’s natural environment. Join us in welcoming them and helping us ensure that Cherokee’s waters and wetlands remain beautiful for decades to come!