Tire monofill proponent now wants to work with Little Shell

By: 
Justin Post — Enterprise Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
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Enterprise photo by Nolan Lister

Mike Adkins, second from left, of Paradise Valley, listens during a May session at the Livingston Civic Center on a proposed tire dump and recycling facility in Paradise Valley.

A Paradise Valley man says he’s working with officials from the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe in an effort to open a tire monofill off East River Road south of Livingston.

Mike Adkins said he’s an enrolled member of the tribe and that he’s giving up his years-long effort to seek permitting for his proposed facility through the state of Montana.

Adkins said Tuesday he’s now seeking to deed his 13-acre property at East River Road and Chicory Road to the tribe, which he said would operate the monofill.

“My intention is to give the land to the tribe I belong to and lease it back and start a tire monofill with them,” he said.

Little Shell Chippewa Tribe Chairman Gerald Gray said Tuesday he supports the Adkins’ project and that tribal officials have been in discussions with Adkins about the possibility of the tribe’s involvement.

“He’s a Little Shell member — of course we’ll support it,” Gray said. “We’ve had conversations with him and of course we’re open to any ideas that will bring economic self-sufficiency to the tribe.”

Adkins said if the land is turned over to the tribe, which is seeking from Congress federal recognition as a sovereign nation, the tribe would ultimately decide what happens on the property.

“The DEQ and EPA has no business on it unless they’re invited,” Adkins said. “If it’s sovereign ground, I don’t need anyone’s permission to act on tribal land.”

Adkins said he’s considered working with the Little Shell for a couple of years and voiced frustration with the state’s request for him to pay a $50,000 deposit for an environmental impact statement.

He said he attempted to work through the state permitting process but was met “with lies and incendiary words” from opponents of his proposed project.

“I have no intention of quitting,” Adkins said. “As long as I have one dying breath I’m not quitting.”

The federal government may still have a say in activities on property that’s owned by a tribe, however, according to documents on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

“The federal government retains authority to carry out federal law within Indian country,” the website states. “Tribes may carry out tribal law in Indian country. Therefore, both tribes and the federal government have responsibilities within Indian country.”

A spokesman from the EPA’s regional office in Denver was not immediately available for comment.

Paul Driscoll, a spokesman for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality in Helena, said his agency has not received any information about Adkins working with the Little Shell Chippewa Tribe.

“DEQ has received nothing to that effect and, therefore, cannot comment,” Driscoll wrote in an email.

Driscoll said DEQ recently sought from Mike and Magdalene Adkins a memorandum of agreement, or MOA, outlining the responsibilities of the applicant and the agency.

If adopted by the parties, the MOA would have required Adkins to make a $50,000 deposit, Driscoll said in his email.

Adkins notified the agency by telephone he had no plans to pay the deposit, Driscoll said.

“Further, they do not wish to proceed with the application process,” Driscoll wrote.

He added that the DEQ considers the application withdrawn and will close its file on the matter.

“As a closed application, any further licensing related to the proposed monofill would require a new application,” according to Driscoll.

Chairman Gray said that if the tribe does formally become involved in the monofill project, it would work to be good neighbors and follow all applicable regulations.

“We’ll be good stewards of the land and the resources,” he said.

Gray said the matter has not gone before the seven-member Tribal Council, which represents 5,325 tribal members and has its headquarters in Great Falls, for consideration but could if Adkins decides to made a presentation.

If Adkins and the Little Shell reach an agreement, Gray said he’s available to answer questions and discuss any concerns.

“Let’s talk. Instead of just running up your little boy blue, the sky is falling all the time, let’s sit down and talk. You can’t oppose everything,” he said. “There’s give and take in this world and as an American Indian, I’ve learned that to a T.”

Pray resident Frank Schroeder, of Protecting Paradise, a nonprofit organization of Paradise Valley neighbors who have challenged the monofill proposal, said the group was happy to learn the DEQ asked Adkins to pay a $50,000 deposit, but said the group had not heard about Adkins’ plan to work with the Little Shell.

“Any further steps that Mr. Adkins takes with the tribal community, we would look at at the time,” Schroeder said.

Adkins, 68, said there’s room on his property for some 60 million tires. He said he’s been in contact with four major suppliers of used tires, which he plans to initially bury on the property.

Once he has 1.5 to two million tires, Adkins said his plan is to launch a facility that recycles the material.

“You don’t build a recycling plant until you’ve got tires to work with,” Adkins said.

The facility would eventually employ 13 people year-round, with an annual salary of up to $40,000, he said.