Letter from the Director
Welcome to News from Planet Pala.
It’s winter, and we are grateful for cooler temperatures and the promise of rain. This quarter, we are working on several projects to enhance and protect Pala’s environment. Read on to learn about our solar microgrid project, the latest on the community demonstration garden, and tips for how to have an environmentally friendly 2024. You can read all of our newsletters on the PED website.
Please reach out to us with comments, questions, or suggestions. We are here for Pala and you!
Prescribed Burns in Pala
The PED Fuels Management Crew got to spend a week in Santa Barbara training for how to conduct controlled burns in preparation for doing some safe prescribed fires in Pala this January. The guys learned a lot and had a great time on the prescribed fire lines during training. Prescribed fires are used during cool, wet times of year to burn off overgrowth of vegetation and make the community safer from wildfires that may happen during fire season. When used correctly, fire is a great tool to help us manage the land. Stay tuned for more details about when we’ll be doing burns in Pala.
Solar Microgrids are Coming to Pala
In 2022, the Pala Environmental Department started work on a $4 million project funded by the US Department of Energy to install solar panels and battery backups on several critical Pala facilities. Solar systems that include batteries are called microgrids. The Pala Microgrids Project will install approximately 1,070 kilowatts (kW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and 10 kW/26 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of battery energy storage systems (BESS) to provide autonomous operations of multiple essential tribal facilities during emergencies. The infrastructure list includes: the Administration Building, Radio Station, Tribal Law Enforcement, Fire Department, Cupa Cultural Center, Youth Center, Wastewater Treatment Plant, Fleet, and Utilities.
We are aiming to break ground within the next couple of months. The microgrid at the Administration Building includes solar carports, so there will be plenty of shaded parking for everyone. The project will provide approximately 102% of the Pala Band of Mission Indians’ electricity consumption at eight facilities, saving nearly $6.4 million in net energy costs and displacing approximately 933,553 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the project’s 25-year lifetime. We are excited to bring these projects to the community and will keep everyone updated on our progress as construction begins.
Let’s Kickoff the CNNCTS Program
Pala has received grant funding from a program called the Collaborative of Native Nations for Climate Transformation and Stewardship (CNNCTS). CNNCTS is a partnership funding award through SDSU, the Climate Science Alliance (CSA), six Tribes, and three other universities. CNNCTS is focused on combining western science and traditional knowledge to boost climate resiliency. Pala is looking forward to working with the Pauma Tribe, the La Jolla Tribe, and others to do a variety of research and actions including bringing back cultural fire.
PED’s project under CNNCTS is focused on growing and planting native plants within the community as a food source and resource for wildlife. We have begun the process of handing out small community awards of up to $2,000 to install native plants or vegetable gardens around homes and businesses in Pala. Look for information in fall of 2024 for a second round of funding for your home or business.
Other funding from the CNNCTS grant will be going towards a hoop house in our demonstration garden near the Administration Building, as well as supplies for our upcoming greenhouse. We are excited to be growing more native plants and foods for the community, and assisting community members with starting their own gardening journey. A key component to climate adaptation is bringing back native plants and wildlife to our yards, gardens, and parks. CNNCTS will help Pala achieve these goals for the community.
Building Pathways to the Pala Community Demonstration Garden
This has been a busy month in the PED Demonstration Garden. We have installed new DG pathways in the southern half of the garden and the new Children’s Garden section. And, thanks to our wonderful community and staff volunteers, we were able to get it planted right after Thanksgiving. We planted many native plants, like California White Sage (Salvia apiana), Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens), Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus spp.), Penstemon (Penstemon spp.), and Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.). We also planted other waterwise, pollinator-friendly flowers, which attracted hummingbirds who fed on the nectar on the first afternoon! We must still lay down some cardboard and mulch to ensure the weeds don’t take over.
Next up in the garden: Over the next few months, we will be working with Pala kids to create our Children’s Garden with a deluxe pollinator hotel, a pizza wheel garden, and Three Sisters Mounds (growing corn, beans, and squash together), a recycled tire garden, and a bunch of other fun youth activities. We will also be starting on installing pathways in the northern half of our garden, along with a sensory garden full of plants that smell or taste great, or are soft to the touch, or even ones that make a lovely sound when the breeze moves through their leaves – all different plants to awaken your senses. We will also build our new greenhouse and hoop house to start raising plants from seed.
Volunteer opportunity: Pala Environmental staff will be out in the garden every Friday, from 10 am to noon, if you ever want to stop by and help with planting, weeding, and mulching, or if you would like to get some hands-on training on how to install drip irrigation. You can also just stop by to enjoy the space, see what has been planted, or even ask our friendly staff any garden questions you may have.
Welcome to Winter!
This year, the first day of winter, also known as the winter solstice, fell on December 21, 2023, at 7:27 pm PST. The winter solstice marks the exact moment when half of Earth is tilted the farthest away from the sun. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year because it is the day with the least time between sunrise and sunset. In Pala, the day was only 10 hours long. Solstices occur simultaneously worldwide, but their local times vary with time zones.
On winter solstice, standing outside at noon and looking at your shadow will be the longest shadow you can cast the entire year. The sun’s low arc across the sky causes longer shadows.
One myth is that the winter solstice is the coldest day of the year. But in the U.S., the coldest temperatures are after mid-January. That’s because the Earth’s land and water take time to cool down.
If you want to learn more about the solstice, check out this Farmers’ Almanac article that provides a diagram and some winter solstice traditions worldwide.
Take Action to Save Water
Sustainable New Year’s Resolutions 2024
We have some great ideas for a sustainable resolution for 2024. The list is pretty long, so if taking on the entire list seems too daunting, start by looking them over. You may already do some of these. In that case, your to-do list for a more sustainable lifestyle in 2024 just got shorter! Read over the list and pick a few you think you’ll be able to continue throughout the year. You can always phase in more resolutions once others have become part of your routine. We hope you have a happy and more sustainable New Year!
Coming Soon: Hawk Feathers PSAs on Rez Radio 91.3
Keep an ear out for our upcoming public service announcements on Rez Radio 91.3. The Pala Environmental Department will be releasing a series of short informational messages called Hawk Feathers. Each short ad will discuss safety, hazards, wildlife, and other information important to the Pala community. We tried to make them all fun and informational, like our upcoming rattlesnake safety PSA which will include information on our local rattlesnakes and what to do if bitten. Be sure to listen for our red-tailed hawk bird call as a great way to alert listeners to our Hawk Feathers info and tips from Planet Pala. What would you like us to include in future informational ads on Rez Radio?
Welcome to Planet Pala. This is the place to learn how you can help the Pala Environmental Department protect Mother Earth. Come to Planet Pala to learn about Pala’s plants and animals, discover how to do your fun activities like building a DIY bee habitat or planting a pollinator garden, and get tips on healthy, green living.
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