Nez Perce Tribe selected to receive over 1.3 million for Wildfire Smoke Preparedness in Community Buildings

Lapwai, ID – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that the Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe) was selected to receive funding through the newly created Wildfire Smoke Preparedness in Community Buildings Grant Program. The Tribe is one of nine grant recipients that will enhance wildfire smoke preparedness within their communities. The Tribe’s funding will provide cleaner air spaces to the public at 16 community buildings on the Nez Perce Reservation. Work will begin this spring 2024 and conclude in January 2027.

Wildfire smoke is not new to the Northwest. However, communities in our region have experienced extreme wildfire smoke events during the past twelve years. The Tribe’s outdoor air monitoring data during these episodes often ranged from the Unhealthy to the Hazardous Category of the Air Quality Index or AQI for 24-hour averages of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). On average Americans spend about 90% of their time indoors and even more so during wildfire smoke events. If buildings are not adequately prepared, outdoor smoke can seep inside potentially making the indoor environment similar or worse to outside conditions.

This project will reduce indoor occupant exposure to wildfire smoke and improve public health protection by strengthening preparedness in three community centers, nine public libraries, and three youth centers. Buildings will receive energy audits and weatherization to seal the building envelope and HVAC system upgrades to deliver increased MERV-filtration from smoke particulates. Portable HEPA-filtration units, air monitoring, and staff training on smoke readiness will also be provided.

“The increase of climate change induced catastrophic wildfires and wildfire smoke affects all communities on the Nez Perce Reservation. Whether you’re playing ball, attending a family fun night, or visiting your local library, we need to breathe cleaner air inside during wildfire smoke events. Collaborating with our community partners to provide spaces where cleaner air will be available is a win for everyone,” stated Mary Jane Miles, Vice-Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe Executive Committee (NPTEC).

The project will potentially reach nearly 20,000 people through partnership with the following groups:

  • Nez Perce Tribe Community Centers in Lapwai, Kamiah, and Orofino
  • Prairie River Library District Branches in Craigmont, Culdesac, Kamiah, Kooskia, Lapwai, Nezperce, Peck, and Winchester
  • Clearwater Memorial Public Library in Orofino
  • The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Nez Perce Tribe
  • The Upriver Youth Leadership Council – Teen Center in Kamiah
  • Clearwater Youth Alliance – ManiYac Teen Center in Orofino

For more information about indoor air quality and wildfire smoke, visit

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