Tribes not seeking water-land swap
published Oct. 15, 2003
Tribal officials say media reports incorrect
By DYLAN DARLING
The Klamath Tribes are not interested in
surrendering their claim for senior water rights in
exchange for regaining portions of their former
reservation, tribal officials said Tuesday.
A press release issued by the tribes said media
reports indicating they were considering a trade of
water rights for land now held by the U.S. Forest
Service were incorrect.
Carl "Bud" Ullman, attorney for the Tribes, said the
Indians have two objectives: gaining water rights in
order to restore fish populations, and regaining
about 690,000 acres of former reservation land now
in public ownership.
Though both objectives are being discussed with
federal officials, the Tribes aren't planning on
turning over their senior water rights, Ullman said.
"While they are being discussed together, each has
to face survival on its own," he said.
The Tribes have been negotiating with a
Cabinet-level working group for about a year.
Tribal Chairman Allen Foreman, in a message to
members of the Tribes on Sept. 27, said there has
been progress in the last year and that an agreement
could be reached by the end of this year, though it
could then take another year to get approval from
Foreman said Tuesday that the agreement would not
involve water being traded for land.
"Any description of the proposed settlement as
trading water or water rights for land is untrue,"
Foreman said in a press release.
"The Klamath Tribes are proposing to recover and
protect the Tribes' treaty resources and the water
rights needed to restore the resources and, at the
same time, to recover that part of the Tribes'
homeland that was turned over to the U.S. Forest
"While recovery of these Klamath Tribes forest lands
would be required by the Klamath Tribes as part of a
settlement, the proposed land return rests on its
own merits, just as a proposed water settlement
depends on recovery of the Klamath Tribes' fishery
and other treaty resources."
The Klamath Tribe had an 860,000-acre reservation
when the federal government terminated the Tribes in
The Tribe was reinstated in 1986.
Ullman said the Tribes are considering foregoing
some of their water rights in exchange for a
restored sucker fishery, which has been closed since
1986. Under such an arrangement, the tribes would
hold their water rights but not seek enforcement of
them if the federal government works to restore
sucker populations, Ullman said.
With regard for former reservation lands, the Tribes
expect to release a forest management plan which
they say will show how the forest should be managed
to help restore natural resources.
In Foreman's September message, he said the plan
would be the "gold standard of forest management
Last Friday the Tribes rejected a proposal from the
Oregon Natural Resources Council for the government
would buy or condemn private property in and around
the boundaries of the old reservation to obtain land
for a new reservation.
The ONRC opposes transfering federal forest land to
"ONRC's opposition will not deter us from working to
restore what was our homeland for fourteen thousand
years before being designated national forest only
42 years ago," Foreman said in a press release.
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