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http://www.heraldandnews.com/articles/2004/02/09/viewpoints/op_ed/9978.txt


Allen Foreman is chairman of the Klamath Tribes.

Myths vs. Facts

Published Feb. 9, 2004

A restored reservation would still allow people access to their property

By ALLEN FOREMAN

Guest columnist

I'd like once again to set the record straight concerning the misinformation perpetuated by those with an interest in maintaining the unsustainable status quo in Klamath Basin natural resource management.

As we all know, the overallocation of water and current degraded conditions of forest habitats do not provide a sustainable future for anyone. The Klamath Tribes are committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that this situation changes for the betterment of all residents, and to provide a healthy environment for future generations.

Myth: The Tribes are participating in secret meetings to negotiate land return.

Fact: The Tribes are participating in meetings with other water users, including ranchers and irrigators, to develop a balanced approach for water allocation that ensures value and increases certainty for all parties with a good faith commitment to resolving the issue. These working sessions have involved the detailed review of water usage data, and significant progress has been made toward a long-term solution to the water issue.

Myth: If the tribal lands are restored, the Tribes will limit access to homes, take over private wells or otherwise restrict hunting and fishing for non-tribal members on and near former national forest lands.

Fact: The Tribes have committed to access for homeowners, including access to their private wells, and recreation including hunting and fishing will be allowed. The Tribes have also committed to a detailed process for public participation in land management decisions. This action is unprecedented - no other tribes have ever committed to such a detailed public right to such a process. As part of any land return, Congress would write these commitments into binding law.

In addition, the Tribes have committed to allow for appeals to tribal and federal courts for public objections to proposed tribal land management decisions. We have enlisted the help of forestry experts to develop a forest management plan that prioritizes habitat restoration for the benefit of all. The restoration process will also benefit watersheds to further contribute toward a long-term water allocation solution.

In addition, deer, game and fisheries will be brought back to abundance so that all hunters and fishermen will benefit from the restoration of these resources.

Private property rights will not be affected in any way. Individuals who currently enjoy the benefits of the National Forest, such as hunting, wood-gathering, and other recreational activities, will be able to continue to do so.

Myth: The Tribes were already paid for their land: Now they want lands returned to their control so that they can profit from timber sales.

Fact: Tribal lands were acquired through the process of condemnation. In other words, we weren't given a choice about whether the Tribes would be "terminated" and our lands taken by the federal government. Nor were tribal members paid a fair price by anyone's standards, then or now.

Under subsequent management, the resources of the Fremont-Winema National Forest have been devastated. The Klamath Tribes Forest Management Plan outlines a 100-year plan for restoring diversity and complexity of the forest structure, as well as the habitat needed to sustain abundant wildlife and restored watershed capability.

It is neither the intent nor in the best interest of the Tribes to manage the forest solely for timber harvest. Again, we will put that commitment in writing and make it enforceable.

Myth: The tribal court will have jurisdiction over citizens driving through the forest and the tribal court is not accountable to U.S. courts.

Fact: The Klamath Tribes do not have any criminal jurisdiction over non-Indian people for any purpose. No tribe does.

Far from extending jurisdiction over non-Indian individuals, the Tribes have committed to opening their processes to public input and to allow for suit in both tribal court and federal district court for those issues related to the management of the lands.

This means that the Tribes are providing an additional forum in which non-tribal members as well as tribal members can address any possible mismanagement of lands, in addition to the federal court system. Federal statutes - including the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act and other federal laws of general application - apply to tribal lands as well. Anyone who feels that land management action affecting these lands is in violation of the law, or the Tribes' own law, may bring suit in tribal court. If that person feels he or she is not accorded a fair hearing in tribal court, the Tribes have agreed to allow for suit in federal district court.

Myth: The plan for land management can change when there are changes in tribal administration.

Fact: The Tribes' proposed Forest Management Plan is a 100-year plan. Moreover, the Tribes' commitment to sound habitat restoration and public access includes the commitment to have those provisions written into binding federal law transferring the lands. When the standards for management of these lands are written into the legislation, it provides assurance that those will be the standards from now on. No one else can offer the same assurances. Any substantial changes in the forest management plan would require an act of Congress.

The Klamath Tribes invite you to review our forest management plan and the principles on which it was developed. This information is available at www.klamathtribes.org and in Klamath County libraries.

Based on that information, please provide us with feedback. We encourage you to become informed with the facts about land and water issues facing our region, and to become part of the solution.

 


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