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Reservation deal protested

Sprague River land owner Al Bowa, left and Sprague River rancher Cliff Rabe hold protest signs near the Shilo Inn in Klamath Falls, where a group was holding a closed-door discussion of various issues, including re-establishment of a reservation for the Klamath Tribes.

Closed-door meeting discussing possible reservation for Tribes draws 50 protesters

published Dec. 2, 2003


Klamath Tribes Chairman Allen Foreman speaks with reporters Monday about his concerns with protests.

About 50 people opposed to creation of a reservation for the Klamath Tribes protested Monday outside a closed-door meeting where the topic was being discussed.

The meeting, coordinated by the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, was another in a series of private meetings between representatives of the tribes and various other interests, including irrigators. It was held at the Klamath Falls Shilo Inn.

Many of the protesters said they wanted to be represented in the discussions that could lead to a new reservation made up of lands now owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

Some carried signs that said "KBRT does not represent us" or "Stop the Forest Giveaway."

The Klamath Tribes have called on the federal government to return about 690,000 acres of the Fremont-Winema National Forests that were part of the tribal reservation abolished in 1954.

Monday's protest was organized by Lynn Bayona, president of the newly formed Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont Forest.

"It wouldn't be bad if we knew what was going on," said Bayona, who does a local radio commentary and goes by the moniker "Snorin' Bear."

The Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, a non-profit group that organized a water leasing program, has fostered relationships and organized meetings with the Tribes, Klamath Water Users Association and other stakeholders. About a dozen people, including some federal officials, participate in the closed-door meetings, which started about two months ago.

Bayona said members of his alliance don't like the secrecy of the meetings, and are worried that a deal for the land might be made without the public getting a chance to comment.

"It's land we bought and paid for, and we have the documentation to prove it," he said.

Kurt Thomas, a board member with the Rangeland Trust and one of the participants in the meetings, said the group has been kept small on purpose to keep the discussions focused. He said anything that comes out of the meetings will be available for the public to review.

"We would love to get everyone involved as soon as we can," he said.

Bayona said the Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont Forest is made up of two kinds of people: people who recreate in the outdoors, and people who live near, next to, or surrounded by the land that might become the new reservation.

There are also some irrigators from above and below Upper Klamath Lake in the group. He said the alliance's membership will probably grow, and is open to anyone in the Basin.

"If they come aboard and we get a loud enough voice, they are going to have to listen to us," he said.

Ed Bartel, president of the Sprague River Water Users, said many people honked or waved in support of the protest and some people stopped and asked questions about what it was all about.

"I think there is a lot of support out there from the public," he said.

Bartel said he has asked in a formal letter to be a part of the negotiations as a representative of water users above Upper Klamath Lake, but was denied.

Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said he was surprised by Monday's protest, which lasted for about an hour and a half, beginning at noon.

"It's unfortunate that someone is spreading poison throughout the community, and someone is listening to it," he said.

He said people will still have access to the forests if the Tribes gets a new reservation, and they will still get to do the things they want to do on the land.

"Our goal is to rebuild the resources to the point where everyone can enjoy them," he said.

Some at the protest were worried about the resources because they make their living off of them. Among them was Glenn Howard of Klamath Falls, who said he had worked the forest since 1968.

Howard, vice president of the alliance, said his company, Road Workers, has been building and maintaining roads in the national forests in question since 1989. He said the company is down to him and one other worker, and he is worried about how a new reservation would affect his business.

"Nobody is contacting the small public - people like us," he said.

So far, the meetings have covered general concepts, and the parties involved have been going over models that show various ways that water can be shared in the Klamath Basin, Foreman said. The group has been kept small to keep the meetings workable.

"To include the entire community in the conceptual ideas wouldn't work," Foreman said.

He said the meetings are like a legal preceding because they involve many of the sides in the ongoing adjudication of water in the Basin.

"It's like going into court, you don't invite all the spectators to testify unless they've got a legitimate claim," he said.

Foreman said the Tribes and the government are about a year away from any possible deal for the reservation land.

Reporter Dylan Darling covers natural resources. He can be reached at 885-4471, (800) 275-0982, or by e-mail at ddarling@heraldandnews.com.

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