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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Stellar Resource Management: Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Oct 01, 2020 12:00AM ● By Candi Broeffle

FDL Natural Resources

If you have driven to the Iron Range or the north shore of Lake Superior, you have undoubtedly seen the Black Bear Casino just off I-35 at the Carlton/Cromwell exit. The casino is a beacon of light for nighttime travelers, letting them know that Duluth is just 20 miles up the road. Many people know that it, and the smaller Fond du Luth Casino in Duluth, are owned and operated by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, but few know of the many other industries of the Band.

Like all Native American tribes in Minnesota, there is a great deal of work being done to not only sustain the members of the tribe, but for the community at large. In a recent Green Tea Conversations interview with Wayne Dupuis, the environmental program manager at the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, he shared some of this important work.

Fond du Lac boasts a robust Resource Management division that is dedicated to researching and implementing both cutting-edge and time-honored practices to protect and manage the natural resources of the Fond du Lac Reservation and its treaty areas. With nearly 100,000 acres of land to steward and close to 43 percent of that being wetlands, the tribe takes its responsibility seriously.

The Band’s Environmental department focuses its efforts on air and water quality, alternative energy, brownfields, wetlands protection and more. In 2007, the Fond du Lac Reservation Business Committee (the tribal government) signed on to the Kyoto Protocol and committed to reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020. This year, they have surpassed this goal to reach nearly a 50 percent reduction and are committed to continuing their efforts.

The Band was able to do this by conducting energy audits on all of its nearly half-million square feet of buildings, including the tribal government center, K-12 school, Head Start, Resource Management Building, three community centers, two casinos, the health clinic, law enforcement center and more, and implementing the recommendations of these audits. Recommendations included making changes to the lighting, water fixtures, sanitation facilities and rooftop air handling facilities, resulting in a cost savings for the Band of $64,000 a month ($750,000/year) in electricity and a 15,000-ton reduction in carbon dioxide.

In 2010, the Resource Management Building was completed and became the first LEED-certified building in Carlton County. It features a 12.5-kilowatt solar panel system that provides up to 10 percent of the power required to operate the facility. They also implemented daylighting—using natural sunlight to light the building—further reducing energy costs.

The Band also invested in a megawatt of photovoltaic solar energy near the Black Bear Casino which supplies nearly 10 percent of the electricity needed for the facility (equivalent to supplying the electricity necessary for 200 homes).

Presently, the Fond du Lac Band is considering the viability of a community biomass project and the possibility of starting its own utility company to further efforts toward energy sovereignty. These efforts, along with utilizing carbon offsets, ensure that within the next few years the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will reach its goal of net zero carbon emissions.

For more information, visit To listen to the complete interview with Wayne Dupuis, visit