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Tribes not seeking water-land swap

published Oct. 15, 2003

Tribal officials say media reports incorrect


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 Congress.

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 Service.

"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 1954.

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 plans."

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 the tribes.

"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.

On the Net: www.klamathtribes.org


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