The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency for increased air quality protection on the reservation.
Band officials want the EPA to give the reservation a Class I air quality designation under the Clean Air Act. The designation, which applies to national parks like Voyageurs, and also wilderness areas like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, requires the strictest air standards in the country.
If the EPA approves the request, the band will become only the sixth tribe nationwide to achieve the status, Fond du Lac Air Program Coordinator Alex Jackson said.
"Basically what we're trying to do is, like the Boundary Waters has got that standard, to keep it as pristine and clear and pollutant free as possible," he said.
Jackson says the designation would not affect currently operating power plants or other facilities like paper mills with major air emissions.
But he said it could mandate stronger pollution controls on new projects close to the reservation.
"Where it would come into play would be if they wanted to do a major modification, and change their emissions significantly, they would have to do different things, probably more pollution controls," Jackson said.