Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians

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[T] 559-683-6633
[F] 559-683-0599
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EPA Department
EPA Department

The mission of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians Environmental Department (EPA) is to protect human health and safety, cultural resources, protecting and enhancing ecosystems and the natural environment on the Rancheria.

The Environmental Department was established in 1999 with the help of its first GAP grant from the USEPA. At the time it funded one staff, since then the department has expanded to four. The Environmental Department is unique from other departments as it services the land to protect and maintain for future generations.

The Tribe currently holds 169.34 acres in trust and 663.82 acres in fee. The fee lands are currently going through the Fee-To-trust process with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Environmental Department is located in the Tribal Government Building (A1).


Pictured is the Tribal Environmental Department with the USEPA Regional Administrator Mr. Jared Blumenfeld. From left to right (Andrew Alcantar, Environmental Technician; Michael Wynn, Environmental Specialist; Samuel Elizondo, Environmental Director; Jared Blumenfeld, USEPA Regional Administrator; Luis Gonzales, Environmental Field Technician & Mary Motola, Cultural Specialist.)

Environmental Department Works with the following issues:

  • Grants
  • Tribal Drinking Water Standards Ordinance
  • Water Quality & Quantity
  • Solid Waste & Recycling
  • Transfer Station Management
  • Hazardous Waste
  • Lands Management
  • Fee-To-Trust
  • Environmental Health & Food Safety
  • Tribal Building Ordinance
  • Safety Workplace Ordinance
  • Nonpoint Source Pollution Control
  • Air
  • Renewable Energy
  • Fuels Reduction
  • Environmental Justice
  • Cultural Preservation
  • Cultural Monitoring
  • Grazing
  • Emergency Management
  • Wetlands
  • Waste Water & NPDES
  • Chukchansi Nature Trail & Environmental Education
  • Environmental Compliance
  • Transportation Planning
  • RTOC
  • Fishing License

The Environmental Department is currently funded by grants from the following agencies. They include:
  • USEPA - General Assistance Program
  • USEPA - Clean Water Act 106, Water Pollution Control
  • USEPA - Clean Water Act 319, Nonpoint Source Pollution Control
  • USEPA - Clean Air Act 103b
  • CalTrans - Environmental Justice Grant
  • BIA- Community Fire Protection & Wildland Urban Interface
  • IMLS Museum Grant
Tribal Funding
  • Cultural Program
  • Fee To Trust

Water is the Tribe's most precious natural resource. Without water there is no life on the Rancheria. Water is needed for residential and commercial existence. Without water, there are no homes, no jobs, and no funding to sustain government programs.

The Environmental Department receives grant funding to monitor water on the Rancheria, especially surface water coming in from upstream via creeks. Up hill, a stone throw away from the Rancheria, is a non-tribal 500 home subdivision all with individual septic tanks and shared large community wells. These septic tanks can fail. This subdivision is the main user of water and wastewater in the area, so it is important to monitor water from upstream to ensure clean water, free from contamination such as fecal coliforms.

The environmental department also looks at protecting water from nonpoint sources such as contaminants from erosion. We follow Best Management Practices to protect water quality.

The Environmental Department also provides a service to the membership for testing their wells for contamination. This is only for members who reside on allotment lands. Please contact us to have your well tested.

The Tribe had previously adopted the Federal Safe Drinking Water Quality Standards to regulate drinking water systems within its jurisdiction The Tribe now has adopted a Tribal drinking water ordinance. The Tribal Environmental Department adopts a schedule of drinking water quality testing and inspection to be conducted pursuant to the requirements set forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency or by the Tribal EPA department. Inspections and testing are conducted by the Tribal Environmental Department.

The Environmental Department monitors the Tribes three offsite properties. The main problem is illegal dumping occurring on these rural lands as seen below.

Illegal Dumping
Illegal Dumping

Over the last 10 years over 95% of solid waste sites have been cleaned up.

In May 2009 the Tribal Transfer Station opened to the members. It is located on the Rancheria across from the casino's valet parking. It was funded by the USEPA GAP grant. Before the station, it was difficult for members, especially the elderly, to dispose of heavy trash bags that one needed to lift. With a transfer station, an elder can simply back up with their vehicle and simply drop the trash into 40 cubic yard bins. The station is open the first Monday of each month for a week. Limit one truck load per family, per month. Please no liquids such as oil, paints, Tires, gasoline, or other chemicals, no TV's, monitors or appliances. No Commercial Dumping. We are working with the Indian Health Service to someday have the station upgraded such as having it enclosed and with power/water hook ups. The hope is to utilize recycling in conjunction with the casino and other Tribal entities and to have a recycling center available to the membership.

Transfer Station
Picayune Rancheria Transfer Station

Adopt a Highway
The Tribe also adopted a stretch of Highway 41 near the Reservation

There is limited hazardous waste on the Rancheria. The Tribe works with federal regulatory agencies for handling such waste. The Tribe's main focus is proper handling in case of accidental discharge from nearby State Route Highway 41 or County Road 417. Examples of accidental discharge leaks may include gasoline or oil.

Bat Netting
Simple netting installed on a Tribal home to prevent bats from settling. Their droppings cause a health concern, especially if food sources are near.

Waste Barrels
Barrels that were later removed

The Environmental Department manages the Tribe's 833.16 acres. It is broken down into four areas. Some of these areas are very rural and can be susceptible to illegal dumping. The department checks all lands on a regular basis to check fences, vandalism, illegal dumping, etc. It is important that the lands are secured and protected so that future generations can benefit from the lands.

As mentioned earlier only 20% of the Tribes lands are in trust. When new lands are purchased the environmental department prepares the application and documents for legal review and council approval. They are then submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for trust approval. This is a process that takes several years to complete. We hope to one day have all the Tribes lands in trust so the Tribe ensures sovereignty.

In 2008 the Tribe adopted a Tribal Food Safety Ordinance. The purpose of this food ordinance is to safeguard the public from potential health hazards related to food and Food establishment sanitation. Per Tribal ordinance The Environmental Department serves as the Department of Safety responsible to enforce this ordinance.

In 2008 the Tribe adopted the Uniform Building Codes to regulate construction within its jurisdiction. The Tribal Environmental Department serves as the Tribal Department of Safety. All standards related to the adoption of the 2007 California Building Code under this ordinance shall apply to the construction, expansion, modification, renovation, alteration, repair, demolition and relocation of all buildings located within the jurisdiction of the Tribe, provided that any projects which are beyond the financing stage at the time of this adoption of this Ordinance shall be completed under the previous applicable law, known as the Inform Building Codes. All standards related to the adoption of the ADA shall apply to all Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities located within the jurisdiction of the Tribe.

In 2008 the Tribe adopted a Tribal Workplace Safety Ordinance. The purpose of this ordinance is to 1) Regulate the safety and inspection of retail, wholesale/commercial and light-industrial labor practices, 2) Regulate the standard of tribal labor force protections from hazardous workforce environments, 3) Regulate the exposure to potential contaminates to the tribal labor force, 4) Establish contract work hours and other labor safety standards as deemed necessary by the tribal Government, 5) Establish enforcement procedures related to this Ordinance, 6) Incorporate by reference the standards of the United States occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA).

Erosion Control is the main Nonpoint Source (NPS) Priority. With rainfall water picks up pollutants and can deposit them in our waterways. The Tribe's NPS program consist of: 1) Implementing physical measures or best management practices that will reduce or eliminate NPS pollution in receiving water bodies, resulting in water quality benefits, 2) Implementing the tribe's approved NPS management program, and finally 3) Implementing "on-the-ground" watershed projects (i.e., stream restoration, revegetation, buffer strips, tree planting, etc).

In 2009 the Tribal Environmental Department was awarded a USEPA Clean Air Act grant to fund an air monitoring station on the reservation. The nearest stations are located in Yosemite Valley or Madera/Fresno. The main sources of pollutants on the reservation are from nearby wildfires, dust, vehicle emissions from roads and heavily trafficked highway 41.

Having a station on the reservation gives us better data. The proposed station will monitor PM2.5, PM10 and ozone. We hope to be able to test indoor air quality in the future.


The Tribe was awarded a grant from the Department of Energy for the purchase of solar panels. These solar panels are located on the roof of the tribal government building. The panels will save the tribe 25% on energy costs and consumption.



The Tribal Environmental department works with other agencies to reduce hazardous fuels on Tribal Lands that may cause a fire hazard in the dry season. In 2010, the Tribe was awarded a grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to do brushing on the Reservation in an effort to reduce potential man made or natural wildfires.

In 2010, the Tribe received a grant from the BIA for fuels reduction. The Tribe was able to hire three Tribal members and lease a chipper to reduce fuels on the reservation to eliminate wildfire concerns.

Brushing Project on the Picayune Rancheria


Last year the Tribe was awarded an Environmental Justice grant from the California Justice grant.  The goal of this grant was to identify possible uses of the land owned by the Tribe.  Possible uses might be for residential, economic development, preservation, etc.  With funding for this grant the Tribe was able to hire Profile Research & Marketing to help put this Land Use Plan together.  PRM surveyed the Tribal members and the general public to get their input on what they would like to see.  Then a series of meeting where held like the one below with members, for determing project locations.   PRM will develop a Public Outreach Plan & Education Plan and a Land Use & Transportation Report.



The goal of cultural resource management is the protection, preservation, documenting and maintaining of a holistic balance of resources that reflect Chukchansi culture. Cultural Resources and their environment are areas and objects that have special meaning to the Chukchansi people. They are the history and traditional landscapes of the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians. These resources include but are not limited to gathering areas, sacred sites, archaeological areas, historic landscapes, museum collections and historical documents.  

Lands that are held in Trust for the Picayune Rancheria as well as lands waiting to become trust land are in a continued process of being monitored, surveyed and inspected on regular bases. Research is conducted to attain the history and inventoried cultural resources are documented.



Work in Collaboration with Government Agencies & Tribes
As part of Cultural Resource Management we work and collaborate with a verity of Agencies, to name a few:

  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs
  • National Park Service
  • United States Forest Service
  • FCC
  • Army Corps of Engineers
  • American Indian Heritage Commission Cal-Trans,
  • CA State Parks
  • Madera County
  • Local School Districts
  • Southern California Edison
  • PG&E
  • Table Mountain, Santa Rosa Rancheria, Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians
  • Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation (American Indian Council of Mariposa County, Inc.)
  • North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, Bishop Paiute Tribe
  • Bridgeport Paiute Colony

United States Forest Service
We meet and have input with the United States Forest Service through quarterly meetings such as the All Tribes Quarterly meeting in Yosemite and Cultural Resource Committee. At these meetings we are kept informed of what tasks and under takings are being contemplated and status of projects in progress. We are also notified (on continuing bases) and asked to comment on proposed laws, practices and projects affecting the Sierra National Forest



National Park Service Yosemite National Park
The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians collaborates with Yosemite National Park and is one of the seven associated tribes who have ancestral ties to Park Lands.  The tribes are Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians, Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation (American Indian Council of Mariposa County, Inc.), North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, The Mono Lake Kutzadika'a Tribe Bishop Paiute Tribe and the Bridgeport Paiute Colony.

The Tribe works with Cal-Trans as Cultural Consultants and depending on the situation a government-to-government basis.  This collaboration is done in an effort to preserve and document cultural resources.


Museum/Repository/Archives & Cultural Center
At this time Cultural Resource Management includes research, collecting, cataloging, and maintaining, tribal history, ethnographic materials, photograph collections, archaeological site records and continues  to record modern events that effect the Chukchansi People. 

In September 2010 the Tribe was awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services grant.  We have received funding for a study named the Chukchanci Museum/Cultural Center Preliminary Feasdibity Study Project. The project is planned to start Nov 2010.

Cultural Monitoring / Cultural Consulting occurs when there is a planned project that will cause ground disturbance and will have an adverse effect on Native American cultural resources. As mentioned we perform Cultural Monitoring for a variety of agencies including our own Tribal entities.

The Tribe is in the process of working with Madera County on an MOU for future off site cultural monitoring projects.

Since of the Tribe's lands are rural and not being used, the Tribe leases its lands for grazing. This is a way for the Tribe to create some revenue from the lands and to control high weeds and fuels.


In 2005 the Tribe was awarded a grant from FEMA to create a Hazardous Mitigation Plan. This is a document required from FEMA that an agency must have developed and approved by FEMA in order to be eligible for federal funds in case of an emergency. Now, five years later the Tribe has updated its Hazardous Mitigation Plan and submitted it to FEMA for approval. The Tribe works with the Casino executive staff in updating the information.

Currently the only Above Ground Storage tanks on the reservation are propane. The proposed gas station will have either above ground or below ground tanks. We will be working closely with this project to ensure the tanks never leak.

Located on Tribal Lands are wetlands. A Wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with moisture either permanently or seasonally. They are considered to be the most biologically diverse of all ecosystems. On the Rancheria the tribe has protected these wetlands in the form of Resource Protection Areas (RPA). These wetlands are monitored and restored by the Tribe's Environmental Department and Natural & Cultural Resource Committee.

Wetlands located on the Rancheria

The Tribe currently holds a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System for its MBR Wastewater Treatment plant. The grant was awarded to the Tribe through a permit process in 2009. However to date the Tribe has not discharged to nearby waters.

In 2006 the Tribal Environmental Department created a nature trail on the Rancheria. This is an excellent opportunity for the Tribe to bring environmental education awareness. The entrance is located near casino security on the south west parking lot where the employees park. The trail offers interpreted signs and cultural uses of plants and cultural resources along the way. The trail is ¾ of a mile one way with some steepness. We ask that you wear the proper clothing attire and have water with you especially during hot weather.

Nature Trail
Entrance of the Nature Trail
Nature Trail
Part of the Nature Trail

The Tribe currently holds a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System for its MBR Wastewater Treatment plant.  The Tribe was awarded to the Tribe through a permit process in 2009.  However to date the Tribe has not discharged to nearby waters.


The Tribal Environmental Department is responsible for ensuring that all environmental considerations are being addressed on the reservation. Per resolution any projects costing $100K require Environmental Community input. Recent environmental review projects included:

  • Phase 1 Casino
  • Phase II Casino
  • Tribal Offices expansion
  • Waste Water Treatment Plant
  • Parking Lots
  • Proposed Community Center
  • Proposed Chukchansi Gas Station

The Tribe is in the process of working with the Madera County Roads Department and CalTrans in adding roads adjacent to the reservation to the Indian Roads Reservation Program, IRR.

The Environmental Department is a regular participant with the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Tribal Operations Committee. The Tribe serves as one of the three Central California Representatives. For more information please visit http://www.epa.gov/region9/tribal/rtoc/index.html

American Indian or lineal descendant who is a resident of the State and whose total annual income does not exceed $9,800 for the head of the household, plus $3,400 for each additional family member living with them. Certification by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (B.I.A.) or proof of being on a tribal registry is required. Verification of income on Form FG371 is required annually.


For more information please e-mail us at epa@chukchansi.net

Copyright 2010 Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians. All Rights Reserved.