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So Whatís the Deal According to the Tribes?
by KBC  12/15/03

"Itís not a land for water swap thatís being suggested. The Interior Department and the State of Oregon have said that land return is unlikely in the absence of a water settlement. And the Tribes have said that a water settlement is unlikely in the absence of the land return."

"Öthatís probably positive for the Tribes to get by with less water than theyíve claimed. If that (restoration) canít be done, then the Tribes have to insist on the full amount of water on their claim," said
Bud Ullman, attorney for the Klamath Tribes.

{Using quotes from the meeting, this article was composed by a KBC editor. Any comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of KWUA, KBB or TGA, but only those of the editor.}

Complete transcripts of these meetings and also the forest tour will be made available soon on KBC.

 

 Over 200 people packed into the Mabel Liskey Henzel Pavilion Saturday to hear what the Tribes have in mind for reacquiring 690,000 acres of the Winema Fremont National Forest. Many were turned away for lack of space, and many people were standing and sitting in the walkways. 100 folks were outside demonstrating against giving back land that the Tribes sold, and against the involvement of Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust (KBRT) who, with the Department of the Interior (DOI), is trying to swing a deal which would involve and impact basin irrigators.

Klamath Tribal Chairman Allen Foreman presented a power point presentation which described what the Tribes will do with the forest. He talked about what it was like, eating roots and birds and wocus, bears and bunnies and berries. They want natural fires that are not suppressed. "Weíve been here since time immemorial". The tribes had 22 million acres. He said the "entire ecosystem of the basin is in serious decline," since white men have managed it.

Foreman had 3 major points.

1. There must be balance determined on water supply. Thereís "Not enough water to go around." All parties want to make a deal so it doesnít go to court.

2. Restore tributaries and watershed.

3. Reestablish our homeland.

Foreman said, "The federal and State government have said that land recovery is unlikely without a water settlement. The Tribes have said that a water settlement is unlikely without land recovery." And "A settlement package is the promise by the federal government to inject $200 million dollars into the Upper Basin for restoration work on the watersheds and the ecosystem in the Basin. That is a part of the packageÖ" (this is where KBRT and The Nature Conservancy come inóKBC). In response to a question, "Why donít the tribes plan to buy back the land? The return of the lands is being considered as part of the negotiated settlement agreement.

"The Tribes are willing as part of our discussions to settle the basinís water and other issues; weíve offered to reduce our claims."

A tribal member had a problem with conceding tribal water rights, "What makes me feel comfortable that the Klamath Tribes is willing to forbear our water. I want to be sure we have water for our fisheries and wildlife habitat."

Ullman responded, ""People have claimed more water in the adjudication than there is water in the basin, so not everybody is going to get what theyíve claimed. In order to reach a settlement, somebodyís going to have to agree that theyĎre going to settle for less water than what theyíve claimed. And one of the things that the Tribe has expressed is a willingness to do is be one of those people, if, in exchange for settling for less water than theyíve claimed, there can be a restoration of the ecosystem that the rivers that fisheries and other tribal resources depend on. If that can be done, thatís probably positive for the Tribes to get by with less water than theyíve claimed. If that canít be done, then the Tribes have to insist on the full amount of water on their claim."

Tribal member Kathy Hill read many questions and answers regarding the proposed land reacquisition. She stressed, "We want to start by talking about focusing on solutions for the future. None of us can change whatís been done in the past. It doesnít do any good to finger point and blameÖwe can collectively change our future.í

However Don Wisser, attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder Colorado, said, "This is a justice and justification issue, a rectification of historic wrong.

"Itís about restoration; restoring the harm thatís been done to the resources that are a part of the basin that everybody here lives in," continued Wisser. The Tribes pointed out that, until 1961, they were the managers of the land and the land produced abundantly."

James Sanderville, tribal member who wants 1 million acres to go back to the Tribes, questioned the buck hunting season being extended to November 30th. Killing off bucks in rut, "thatís gunna kill off our herds!" He also questioned the tribal decision to build their complex on a historic village.

Don Gentry, tribal resource specialist, replied, "We want to allow tribal members to do what they need to do for subsistence purposesÖwe donít want to make tribal members criminals by passing laws against things that they need to do to subsist." The tribes have been questioned recently about tribal spotlighting with big rifles and big pickupsÖsome non-tribal members do not feel that this practice was historically traditional before white man came, and they feel that this is why the herds are drastically reduced.

One woman questioned the water-for-land bargain. Ullman replied, "I didnít say that the Tribes are offering or intending or even suggesting that anything that Iíve said about trying to reach a water settlement is in exchange for the Fremont Winema National Forest return. Those are two separate concepts that are joined because the powers at be have said that one canít happen without the other. Itís not a land for water swap thatís being suggested. The Interior Department and the State of Oregon have said that land return is unlikely in the absence of a water settlement, and the Tribes have said that a water settlement is unlikely in the absence of land return."

Same Woman, "It seems like youíre playing on words sir. It does seem like thereís a water swap for land. Thatís as clear as it can be."

Barbara Hall, Klamath Bucket Brigade asked Ullman, "How many acre feet of water are you asking for in claims? Can you give me a total of all your claims?" Ullman would not quantify the Tribal claims.

Foreman did conclude, "We genuinely want your inputÖ.if this is going to work itís got to work for all of us . It canít work for one entity in the basin. It canít work for Ag alone. It canít work for the Tribes alone. It canít work for business alone."

The conclusion of this story is, Foreman asked for input. Keep it factual. Read their constitution (on KBC Negotiation page). Read documents describing what Tribes want, and what KBRT wants, and what irrigators want. How does The Nature Conservancy fit in, and who is at the table. Regardless of your opinion for or against the reacquisition and KBRT involvement, be factual, ask questions, and write to the Tribes and your elected officials. We will have that contact list for you soon. Letís acknowledge Foremanís request for input! KBC.

 

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