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The Tri-County Courier
Published February 18, 2004 Pg 1
by Kehn Gibson
Tribal members want land closed
Nearly eight out of 10 Klamath Tribal members want to restrict public hunting and fishing on the Winema-Fremont National Forest, the ground the Tribes are arguing should be returned to tribal management;
Those were some of the numbers contained in a survey of Tribal members,
Conducted by the Tribe's Land and Water Negotiation Working Team, the 10 question survey was distributed to Tribal members in January and February, 2003.
Just 146 Tribal members responded out of an estimated 3,600 members on the rolls. The final results were presented to the General Council in December,
Question No. 3 on the survey asked, "If land is acquired as reservation land, are you willing to allow for unlimited public access as it currently exists in the Winema and Fremont National Forests?
Nearly 75 percent answered "No," and 24 percent answered "Yes."
A companion question asked the members if they would allow public access under laws and polices administrated by the Tribes.
Nearly 90 percent answered "Yes."
Question No. 5 asked if the members would allow public hunting and fishing on the Winema and Fremont National Forests as it currently exists.
Again, an overwhelming percentage, 74.7 percent answered "No."
As before, a follow-up question asked if the members would allow hunting and fishing under the laws and policies administrated by the Tribes,
Again, an overwhelming percentage, 81.5 percent, answered "Yes."
The responses run counter to Tribal Chair Allen Foreman's repeated assurances to the Klamath Basin community that public access, hunting and fishing on the Winema-Fremont National Forest would remain unchanged should the Tribes acquire the ground,
Foreman asserts that public hunting access to the ground would not change, and landowners whose access to their property crosses what is now federal ground will not be denied access either.
"We just wouldn't to that," Foreman said at a November meeting in Beatty.
Yet critics, including Ed Bartell, point out that every public assurance made by the Tribes is qualified by the goals of the Tribes' management plan, released in December,
A position paper released by the Tribes in November ends nearly every paragraph with the statement that any and all decisions will be consistent with the management plan.
Bartell, a Sprague River Valley irrigator and a member of the Basin Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont National Forests, also points out the actions of the Warm Springs Tribe along the Deschutes River in north-central Oregon.
In the last decade, the Warm Springs Tribe has progressively limited public access to the reservation. Along some reaches of the world-renowned redband trout stream, it is now illegal for non-Warm Springs Tribal members to fish from the western bank, or to even beach their boats,
Even beyond the reservation's boundaries, a permitting process supported by the Warm Springs Tribe now limits the number of boaters on the river, once a popular rafting destination. The process has had severe economic impacts on local businesses in Maupin.
Although there are no endangered species issues in the Deschutes River, the driving logic has been the environmental health of the riparian zones along the river.
Whether the Warm Springs Tribe provides a precedent, as Bartell contends, or not, the Basin community is uneasy.
Other responses on the survey contribute to the unease.
Nearly 90 percent of the Tribal members surveyed said the Tribes should hold responsibility for the civil enforcement of laws. And 83 percent said all negotiations with irrigators and the federal government should be abandoned if a return of Tribal lands was not on the table.
Although many in the Basin community agree the Klamath Tribe would do a better job of managing the forestlands, they contend it is because the Tribes would not be hamstrung by potential lawsuits from environmental organizations.
The Tribes sovereignty does not allow litigation from environmental groups, a protection the U. S. Forest Service does not have.
It is with some irony that the Tribes' announcement they were seeking federal forestland brought an immediate - and ill-thought - response from the Oregon Natural Resources Council against the Tribes' proposal. The split between the recent partners was made evident in the press, when Foreman publicly rejected ONRC's counter proposal to condemn 600,000 acres of privately held lands in lieu of the national forestlands being considered by the Tribes.
Foreman met with the ONRC's Jay Ward and Andy Kerr at their request in late November.
"They wanted to have us rethink our options," Foreman said. "I told them to rethink theirs."
The survey does report that the Wilderness Society, another environmental organization, contributed to the development and dispute resolution aspects of the Tribal management plan.
As a result, the survey reports the group supports the return of Tribal lands.
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