INDIAN ISLAND, Maine — Penobscot Nation officials are celebrating the recent acquisition of four new hybrid technology vehicles purchased with federal grants. On Thursday, Chief Kirk Francis said the purchase of three gas-and-electric Toyota Highlanders and a Toyota Camry not only will save money on fuel but also reflects the tribe’s commitment to environmental protection.

“Obviously, this is very important to us as historic stewards of the land,” Francis said. “We are trying to reduce our carbon footprint and to be leaders … in the transition to green technology.”

Two of the Highlanders and the Camry, all silver in color, are emblazoned with the logo of the tribe’s public safety department and will be used for police business. Police Chief Robert Bryant said he expects to reduce the department’s fuel costs by as much as 75 percent as a result of the vehicles’ estimated 40-mile-per-gallon efficiency.

“They run on battery below 25 miles an hour, and since the speed limit on the island is 20 miles an hour, they’ll be using electricity most of the time,” Bryant said. The vehicles’ near-silent operation while in battery mode will also enable police to keep a low profile as they work, he noted.

The third Highlander, which will be white with green lettering when it arrives from an area paint shop, is for the use of the tribe’s air quality program. Program manager and vice chief of the tribe Bill Thompson said he makes frequent trips to the Carrabassett Valley area where the Penobscot Nation, along with other government agencies, has several air quality monitors in place. The vehicle’s prominent identification as a hybrid will send a public message about the importance of investing in environmentally friendly technology, he said.

Francis, who chairs the executive committee of the Albuquerque, N.M.-based National Tribal Environmental Council, said the Penobscot Nation is deeply committed to environmental protection. The tribe has long endorsed sustainable forestry practices on tribal lands, supports alternative energy projects, and has constructed a number of housing units certified by the national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, or LEED, he said.

The four vehicles, purchased from an Augusta dealership, cost $125,000 including sirens, radios and metal security barriers for the police vehicles. The tribal officials said they believe the Penobscot Nation’s public safety program may be the first in the nation to boast an entire fleet of hybrid technology vehicles.

Funding was provided by federal grants from the Department of Justice, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The three vehicles in use by tribal police replace two Chevrolet Impalas and a Ford Crown Victoria, which Bryant said would be sold at auction.


Meg Haskell

Meg Haskell is a curious second-career journalist with two grown sons, a background in health care and a penchant for new experiences. She lives in Stockton Springs. Email her at