Overall Objectives

  • Maintain an environmental planning program
  • Protect the health and safety of the Reservation residents and visitors
  • Keep the Reservation in compliance with all applicable environmental laws and regulations
  • Be involved with local, state and national decision making processes to better protect the water, air and land resources

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants have empowered the Tribe to develop an Environmental Department which protects the natural resources of today so that generations of tomorrow will be able to enjoy clean water, air, and land.

Waste And Recycling Information
Including Junk Vehicles and Yard Waste


Solid Waste goes by many names: Polite names include Trash, Garbage, Junk, Debris, Refuse, Rubbish, Scrap, and Litter!

Residents of the Big Pine Indian Reservation are responsible for their own household wastes, and these should be disposed of appropriately and legally. Residents must arrange with regional waste collection companies for curbside household trash service. Alternatively, residents may haul their own household trash to a nearby transfer station or landfill. The two closest locations to Big Pine include the Big Pine Transfer Station and Bishop Sunland Landfill. Both are managed by Inyo County, and the county’s Integrated Waste Management website provides detailed information on when and how to dispose of most waste items. Got to: www.inyocountysolidwaste.com.

Two goals of the Tribe’s Solid Waste program are to reduce blight on the Reservation and to minimize the amount of waste going into landfills. We strongly promote the concept of: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, and encourage community members to always consider the environmental consequences of their consumption patterns. The Environmental Department provides curbside recycling service and actively assists community members with Solid Waste management. Find assistance on how to dispose of items in the links on this page, or call the Environmental Department.


The Environmental Department picks up recyclables curbside each Tuesday throughout the Reservation. If you need a bin, help getting started, or advice, please let us know. Call the Environmental Department (760) 938-2003. We’ll take empty cans, bottles, jars, plastic containers, cardboard, and paper. Please call if you have a large or special item you need help disposing.

big pine tribe environmental


List of items that Big Pine Tribal Environmental Department will pick up:

  • All California Redemption Value (CRV) or items stamped “CA Cash Refund.” This mostly includes drink containers such as aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles.
  • Glass: All glass bottles and containers, including clear, brown and green glass. (Please don’t include mirrors, broken glass, window or auto glass.)
  • Plastic: #1 and #2 plastic ONLY!
  • Newspapers, including the inserts.
  • Corrugated cardboard.
  • Chipboard: Cereal, tissue, shoe and other such boxes
  • Paper: Office paper, junk mail, unbound magazines or catalogs

PLEASE make sure recyclables are EMPTY and CLEAN!

Please remove lids, remove all contents of the container, and rinse clean. Items not suitable for recycling may be left in your bin for you to dispose. The Recycling program is sorry for any frustration this may cause.

The following items may be collected by the Environmental Department but please call to arrange for removal (760-938-2003 ext. 234):

  • Electronic E-Waste: Computers and peripherals, monitors, keyboard, mouse, printers, telephones, etc. Almost anything with a cord is recyclable.
  • Metal, Wood, Cars, Appliances, and any large items
  • Household Hazardous Waste, such as paints, pesticides, motor oil, bleach, solvents, and used batteries
  • Fluorescent and compact fluorescent (e.g. spiral) light tubes and bulbs.

Note: The Environmental Department will charge a fee on certain items to be hauled for disposal. These fees are in accordance with what the County charges at the gate. Please see the County’s website for the list of fees http://www.inyocountysolidwaste.com/fees.html Thank you for doing your part!

List of THINGS THAT CANNOT BE RECYCLED now: (some of this is just plain common sense, but sometimes we all wonder!)

  • Anything messy with food, tape, or dirt, or Combination items, such as plastic wrap stuck on cardboard or foil-lined boxes. (However, if it can be cleaned and separated, please do so before tossing the recyclable part in your bin!)
  • Most paper, foil, plastic, and foam food wrappers that have been in direct contact with food, such as fast food wrappers and containers, candy bar wrappers. No messy pizza boxes.
  • Most (used) paper plates, cups, cup lids, plastic utensils
  • Paper napkins, tissue, toilet paper, paper towels
  • Bags from pet food, charcoal, fertilizer
  • Bubble style or plastic or Tyvek mailing envelopes
  • Styrofoam
  • Broken glass, old-style light bulbs, dishes, mirrors, window or auto glass, drinking glasses
  • Books (hardbound or paperback) or catalogs with a glued binding
  • Photographs on old-style photo paper
  • Rubber bands
  • Cloth or clothing

Try adopting a motto: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” in that order. It’s best to reduce unnecessary consumption, thereby precluding the need to secondarily “process” (dispose of) the item (or its wrapper)! If you have an item that can be reused, but you no longer need it, consider donating it. Charities, thrift stores, garage sales, and other opportunities exist for getting items to people in need. When you have a choice, choose items that can be reused or recycled.

We invite all households to recycle and promote other efforts to keep our community clean. If you need help getting started with recycling, or if you have any questions, please call the Environmental Department at 760-938-2003.

Click here for short list of Reservation Recyclables: REZ RECYCLE AT A GLANCE

Recycle Small Electronics And Let the Post Office Pay!

The U. S. Postal Service provides free postage if you use one of their little, self-sealing envelopes to mail in certain items for recycling. They will accept: inkjet cartridges, cell phones, PDAs, iPods, MP3 players, and digital cameras. Don’t let used or non-functional items sit around or end up in the landfill, mail them away for recycling. Look for the display at the Big Pine Post Office.

Unwanted (Junk) Vehicles The Environmental Department will happily schedule free removal of an unwanted motor vehicle! Unwanted vehicles are not only an eyesore, they can also create environmental problems as they sit and rot. Fluids leak into the soil and our drinking water, stinging insects or disease-carrying vermin move in, and children think they are playhouses, until they get cut on rusty, sharp edges.

The Big Pine Tribe now has a Junk Vehicle Ordinance, whereby the Tribal Council may declare a vehicle abandoned and have it removed at the land assignment holder’s expense. Please note, it’s best to have the vehicle removed before it becomes a problem.

Click here to view the Tribe’s Junk Vehicle Ordinance

Yard Waste

The yard work isn’t finished once the weeds are pulled or the limbs cut: There is still a need to deal with the waste that accumulates. This is the responsibility of each community member.

Local landfills now charge fees for yard waste. However, the Bishop Sunland Landfill has a tub grinder (a super-sized chipper) where they turn larger limbs into mulch. The mulch may be retrieved, free, from the landfill.

The BEST thing to do with yard waste is RECYCLE it at home! This can be accomplished by creating a compost pile. Over time, dead vegetation and other plant-based wastes will be converted by microorganisms into organic soil. Many resources exist for explaining how to get started on composting.

Short of compost, limbs may be CHIPPED INTO MULCH. Contact the Environmental Department about its chipper to create wood-mulch. This mulch is handy for many landscaping tasks and healthy for the environment.

Read more about mulch here In The Garden – Mulch

TIPS for Managing Yard Waste:

Before you start cutting and piling yard waste, have a plan for dealing with the resulting debris. Can you make it into mulch or compost? Will it fit into your curbside waste bin? Can you haul it to the Big Pine Transfer Station or Bishop Sunland Landfill? (If so, be aware they will charge a small fee.)

Remove weeds as soon as they sprout, when they are small. Not only is it easy, but your pile of weeds will be puny! Also, when you destroy them before they make seeds, you reduce the seed bank, thus the chances of having another big crop of these weeds in the future.

Try Not to wait until weeds grow big, prickly, and full of seeds. It’s a lot more work, and the seeds will scatter ensuring you’ll have more of the same weeds again in the future. Think about Nipping them in the Bud!

Tumbleweeds are a chronic problem on the Reservation. They are like any plant, though: they start out small. For tips on attacking tumbleweeds before they attack you, click here: Removing Tumbleweeds

If you find brush and weeds are a constant problem, and/or the place always looks like it needs mowing, consider altering your irrigation practices. Plants won’t grow in Big Pine without water (except for those tumbleweeds), and if you are providing the water, try being more judicious and attentive to where it’s going and the extra work it’s creating.

Household Hazardous Waste – What Everyone Should Know

Many common and necessary items used around the home require special handling when it comes time to dispose of them. The items listed below are considered “Household Hazardous Waste.” If these substances leak into soils or water or waft into the air, they can be toxic to living things, including humans.

  • Paints, stains
  • Oil, oil filters
  • Pesticides
  • Insecticides
  • Solvents
  • Anti-freeze
  • Bleach, cleaners
  • Old diesel, gasoline, other fuels
  • Transmission fluid

Household Hazardous Wastes will be accepted, free of charge, on collection event days at the Inyo County Landfills and Transfer Stations. Each disposal site hosts about four of these collection events per year: Check their website [http://www.inyocountysolidwaste.com/hazardous_waste.html ] or the Tribal newsletter for dates. All are Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Disposal sites can accept no more than 20 gallons per visit in no larger than 5-gallon containers.

Oversized Items

Not all large-sized junk is created equal. A broken washing machine, for example, can be dropped at the landfill for free, but a mattress costs money. The rule of thumb is anything with a cord can be placed for free in a bin at the landfill. Furniture costs $4 per item. Other large items may be charged as “Construction and Demolition” or “Mixed Debris” and charged by volume, in addition to the standard gate fee.

Tires and Trailers

The local landfill will accept automobile and other vehicle tires, but only if the tire is OFF the rim. There is a $4 to $8 cost per tire, depending on size. If you have tires that are on the rim and would like to dispose of them it will cost about $5 to have them de-mounted at a local tire shop. Rims may be accepted free as metal at local landfills.

Please think twice about acquiring or placing a trailer on your assignment – motorized or stationary – because eventually it will become a Solid Waste nightmare. Dilapidated, trailers are a problem, because NO ONE wants them! The cheapest way to dispose of a trailer – and it’s still expensive — is to strip it of anything valuable (such as steel and other metal). Is there anything you could reuse, such as mirrors, glass, door handles, etc? Local landfills accept wood, fiberglass, and plastic debris as “Construction and Demolition” at a cost of $14 per cubic yard. So, crushed remains of a trailer will be accepted at the cost determined by the landfill gatekeeper.

Litter Clean Up

The Environmental Department recommends residents keep yards and roadsides free of litter and debris. Litter Happens! We know you probably didn’t leave that can or plastic bag near the end of your driveway, but the fact is, it’s there. Carelessness, dogs, ravens, and our valley winds conspire against us when it comes to litter. Keep in mind, it’s easiest and best to pick up litter as soon as possible. Clean places tend to stay clean, messy places tend to accumulate debris.

Links to other Solid Waste resources

Inyo County Solid Waste


EPA’s Solid Waste Management on Tribal Lands

Recology: The San Francisco dump’s Artist in Residence program


A comprehensive, A-Z guide that includes 200+ everyday items that can be recycled, both from the home and the garden


The Big Pine Tribal Air Program recognizes that breathing clean air is important to human health. Observations in recent years suggested a general deterioration in visibility and overall air quality, possibly due to factors such as dust blowing off the land surface, smoke from wildfires, and polluted air moving into the Big Pine area from afar.

To begin to better understand the air around us, the Tribal Air Program seeks to characterize ambient (outdoor) air pollutants. The Tribe gathers data on PM10 and PM2.5 (which is particulate matter 10 microns or 2.5 microns in diameter and smaller, respectively), analyzes patterns and trends, and attempts to identify the sources of the pollution. We use an Environmental Beta Attenuation Monitor (E-BAM) to measure particulates, and we compare these data with known standards as well as with data available from other instruments in the region.

We monitor visibility on the Reservation using a webcam. Below, is a live image showing visibility south of the Reservation.

The Tribe continues to grow its air program by:

  1. Gauging the Tribal community’s interest with regard to indoor air quality;
  2. Educating youth and adults about air pollution concerns and what may be done to improve air quality and reduce health risks;
  3. Developing information for the Tribe on the nexus between climate change and air quality; and
  4. Engaging in regional and national efforts to improve air quality.


What Exactly is a High Desert Climate?
By Cindy Duriscoe

We experience quite the extremes living in the Owens Valley. Think about the variety residents experience during one year of weather. We live in a temperate desert with hot, dry summers and snowy winters. The basin and range topography characterizes this desert: wide valleys bordered by parallel mountain ranges generally oriented north-south. We experience more sunny days than not and little precipitation (snow and rain) on the valley floor. Summers are clear and dry, often extending into autumn even as temperatures cool. In the high-country winters are noteworthy for long periods of mild temperatures and sunny days, under the atmospheric influence of warmer Pacific air masses. The Great Basin region is extremely mountainous, and the temperatures vary depending on the elevation. In general, temperature decreases 3.6 degrees F for every 1000 feet gained in elevation. This translates to as much as a 30 °F (17 °C) difference between mountain tops and valley floors on the same day at the same time. In the heat of summer this difference can be even more pronounced. An example of the temperature extremes we experience occurred in February of 2016, where the monthly temperature ranged from 16 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Our part of the Great Basin area does at times experience wild swings in temperature, gusty winds especially during the fall and spring. This is an expression of “weather”. Weather refers to short-term changes in the atmosphere, climate describes what the weather is like over a long period of time in a specific area. Different regions can have different climates. To describe the climate of a place, we might say what the temperatures are like during different seasons, how windy it usually is, or how much rain or snow typically falls. When scientists talk about climate, they’re often looking at averages of precipitation, temperature, humidity, sunshine, wind, and other measures of weather that occur over a long period in a particular place. In some instances, they might look at these averages over 30 years.

Another sometimes extreme annual weather factor is precipitation (the rainfall we receive that lands on the ground) or lack of. Weather coming in from the Pacific Ocean quickly loses its moisture as rain and snow once it is forced up and over the steep mountains. By the time it reaches the east side of the mountains, little moisture is left to bring to the desert. The rain shadow effect is more pronounced closer to the Sierra Nevada, with yearly precipitation in the Great Basin desert averaging 9 inches in the west and 12 inches in the east. Moisture that manages to reach the ecoregion tends to precipitate as rain and snow in higher elevations, primarily over the region’s long, parallel mountains. The Big Pine area of the Great Basin receives annual averages for precipitation of around 5-7 inches. The average water content of snow in January was 0.3in. February and Nov. Dec. was 0.1in. (Average-Weather-in-Big-Pine-California-United-States-Year-Round).

Another noteworthy weather factor is wind. With some exceptions, wind generally increases with elevation or altitude, and thus strong winds are often encountered on mountain tops and ridges. The dominant source of air flow throughout the year is the Pacific Ocean. In summertime we experience a clockwise whirl of air that is several hundred miles across. This accounts for the high pressure systems that keep our air clear and dry. During this time of year an afternoon breeze arrives at the Sierra crest about noon and Owens Valley about two hours later. We also experience a similar diurnal effect in canyons when on warm, sunny mornings heated air rises along the ground creating a valley breeze. During the wintertime when cold fronts are approaching the Owens Valley from the northwest and west we receive wind coming over the Sierra Nevada range. The Sierra Nevada cause many fronts to stall west of the crest, but after they pass is when we get the bone-chilling north winds.

What is a Health Advisory?

When local air pollution levels exceed certain levels that impact human health, an air quality advisory is put into effect. When this happens all individuals living in or traveling within the affected area are advised to be aware of potential health concerns that can be associated with poor air quality conditions. Most individuals with respiratory conditions (such as COPD and asthma), and individuals with existing cardiovascular conditions (such as angina, previous heart attack and congestive heart failure), may notice a worsening of symptoms, due to the poor air quality conditions. These individuals should monitor for worsening of symptoms and take the precautions routinely recommended by their physicians if a worsening of symptoms occurs.

The Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District will issue air pollution health advisories when air pollution exceeds selected trigger levels. District staff will take hourly readings of the wind speed, wind direction and particulate pollution levels in Mammoth, Bishop, Lone Pine, Olancha and Keeler, during normal business hours. Once we are reporting regular particulate matter data Big Pine will be included in this advisory system.

Health advisory notices will be faxed and emailed to schools and interested citizens in the affected communities and to local media outlets. Health advisories will remain in effect for the remainder of the day and if appropriate, will be reissued as conditions change.

A Stage 1 air pollution health advisory will be issued when hourly particulate pollution (PM10) levels exceed 400 microgram per cubic meter (µg/m³) for dust and 100 µg/m³ for wildfire smoke. A Stage 1 health advisory will recommend that children, the elderly, and people with heart or lung problems refrain from strenuous outdoor activities in the impacted area.

A Stage 2 air pollution health advisory will be issued when hourly particulate pollution levels exceed 800 µg/m³ for dust and 200 µg/m³ for wildfire smoke. A Stage 2 health advisory will recommend that everyone refrain from strenuous outdoor activities in the impacted area.

For More Information…

For other Owens Valley air information, visit: Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District: https://www.gbuapcd.org/

For your area Air Quality Index(AQI) visit: https://www.airnow.org/

The Environmental Protection Agency Data website: https://www.epa.gov/outdoor-air-quality-data

California Air Resources Board: https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/homepage

For the latest fire information visit: https://www.nifc.gov/fireinfo/fireinfo_main-html


The Tribal Water Program

Control of water resources and water availability have been dominant themes in Owens Valley, especially during the last century. Water available to the Big Pine Paiute Reservation consists of a short reach of Big Pine Creek which runs through a part of the Reservation, groundwater which the Tribe pumps to supply domestic uses, and water diverted from Big Pine Creek by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and delivered to the Tribal community primarily for the purpose of outdoor irrigation.

Water quality on and near the Reservation is generally known to be very good. The Tribe’s current Water Program focuses on surface and groundwater and addresses non-point source pollutants as well. The program is described below:


The Reservation received authorization from the EPA to implement Tribal Water Quality Standards in 2006 under Section 518(e) of the Clean Water Act to be treated in a manner similar to a state (“TAS”). The Tribal Water Quality Standards are intended to protect public health and aquatic life and to maintain or enhance water quality in relation to the beneficial uses of the water. The beneficial uses designated for Big Pine Creek by the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley (Tribe) are listed below:

  • Agricultural Supply
  • Cold Freshwater Habitat
  • Commercial and Sport Fishing
  • Freshwater Replenishment
  • Ground Water Recharge
  • Municipal and Domestic Supply
  • Water Contact Recreation
  • Non-contact Water Recreation
  • Spawning, Reproduction and Development
  • Wildlife Habitat
  • Cultural

These beneficial uses have been designated by the Tribe to ensure that the waters of Big Pine Creek continue to show excellent water quality. In order to protect the beneficial uses from degradation, the Tribe established Water Quality Objectives in both numerical and narrative forms.

Water monitoring has been conducted on Big Pine Creek since June 2001. For the first three years, monitoring occurred at two sampling points, upstream and downstream of the Reservation. The two sets of data proved very similar and fell within an acceptable range of variation. In 2005, sampling was consolidated at one location on the Reservation. The initial water samples from Big Pine Creek were used to provide baseline data on the quality of water flowing through the Reservation. Subsequent monitoring of Big Pine Creek has been performed to verify earlier results and to monitor changes in water quality. The Tribe has also sampled Big Pine Creek for benthic macro invertebrates on an annual basis since 2006.


A monitoring program was initiated to assess the quality of groundwater in the aquifer located beneath the Reservation. The Tribe implemented a monitoring plan to 1) establish baseline information regarding the current quality of water in the shallow aquifer, 2) assess the impacts of long-term pumping, seasonal recharge/discharge cycles, and existing land uses, and 3) track changes in contaminants.

Monitoring well BP Res 5 was installed near the southwestern edge of the Reservation in 2002 and water quality monitoring has been conducted at BP Res 5 since August 2002. Analysis of the groundwater from BP Res 5 has assisted in determining the water quality of the aquifer and has provided background data for continual monitoring of water quality changes.


Water levels have been measured at monitoring wells, drinking water wells and piezometers throughout the Reservation since November 2004. Three monitoring wells are equipped with dedicated data loggers for continuous monitoring and seven additional sites are measured monthly using a Solinst Water Level Meter, Model 101, with a P4 Environmental Probe. The water level measurements provide key hydrologic data needed to assess aquifer recharge and contaminant transport pathways. Water level data also provide records of temporal response of the shallow and deep aquifers to natural recharge cycles and local pumping.


The overall purpose of the Non-point Source (NPS) Management Program is to support all beneficial uses described in the Tribal Water Quality Standards and protect or restore watershed conditions on the Reservation. This purpose shall be realized through the integration of NPS prevention activities with water quality monitoring, other tribal environmental programs and public outreach to ensure protection of Tribal water resources. Tribal NPS activities being implemented which assist in protecting the Tribe’s water resources include enforcement of Tribal Water Quality Standards, monitoring of surface water and groundwater quality, collecting streamflow measurements, improving the Tribe’s irrigation water delivery system, executing a solid waste management program, enforcing a hazardous waste policy, and continuing public education. Specific activities to assist in managing nonpoint sources include: management of invasive non-native plant species, prevention or reduction in the frequency of wildfire, further development of sustainable agricultural and residential practices, anticipation of climate change impacts, and collaboration with others.

Info coming soon!

Info coming soon!

Department Contact

  • Solid Waste Technician:
    Gregory S. Spratt
  • Environmental Technician:
    Elaine Chow