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 Herald and News: Klamath Falls, Oregon


Keep private lands out of reservation issue

October 12, 2003

We can say this much for the Oregon Natural Resources Council: at least the litigation-happy group didn't sue to try to force the government to use private lands to settle tribal land issues. Yet.

The ONRC contributed its four bits on the subject Wednesday. We'd say "two bits," except issues involving the ONRC tend to get expensive when the legal fees are figured in.

The organization jumped into the negotiations between the Klamath Tribes and the federal government about the possibility of turning over to the tribes ownership of national forest lands that were once part of the Klamath Reservation. The reservation was terminated by the federal government in 1954, and payments were made to tribal members. The reservation then became the Winema National Forest and part of the Fremont National Forest.

The Klamath Tribes were re-recognized in 1986 and have been trying to get land for a reservation.

The ONRC said that no public lands should be used to re-establish the reservation. Instead, it favors buying up or condemning private lands that were within the 1954 reservation boundaries - about 470,000 acres - and using that for a reservation. Homes and up to 40 acres of adjoining lands would be exempt.

The ONRC said that it was against using national forest land to re-establish the reservation because it believes the best way to protect land is keep it in public ownership.

Forcing people to sell their land - at least in a case like this - is unfair and poor public policy.

Whatever agreement is made with the Klamath Tribes should come from the publicly owned lands.

Whether the reservation should be re-established at all is an unsettled issue.

The Tribes are expected to make public their proposed plan for use of forest lands within a few weeks and that may shed more light on things. Efforts to convert any lands - public or private - to re-establish the reservation are going to conflict-ridden and difficult. We can reduce the issues involved by ending the talk of using private lands.

The federal government should tell the ONRC thanks, but no thanks.

The "H&N view" represents the opinion of the newspaper's editorial board, which consists of Publisher John Walker, Editor Tim Fought, City Editor Todd Kepple and Opinion Editor Pat Bushey. Most of the editorials are written by Bushey.

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