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Turning public lands over to the Tribes would be a travesty

September 12, 2005 by AVERIL ANDERSON, Guest columnist

(Tribes proposal to commissioners including the supporters from 7/13/05)

Dylan Darling's Aug. 28 front-page article pertaining to the Klamath Tribe's delay of reservation talks leaves most of us in the dark. For one thing, the front page headline does not warrant the content of the article.

The article about the proposal presented July 13 to the Klamath County commissioners states Klamath Tribes Chairman Alan Foreman was joined by farmers, ranchers and a Jeld-Wen vice president.

What is not reiterated in the article, as in an earlier article, is that the farmers and ranchers present at this work session consisted of one rancher and three farmers.

This small group is not representative of the majority of farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin.

At least one or two of the farmers do not live in Oregon.

Blatantly absent at the presentation were those who might represent the small private landholder.

I am sure that most private landowners who now live within and adjacent to Fremont-Winema National Forests would not be in favor of any kind of land transfer. Nor would the public at large greet this proposal with open arms.

It is obvious, too, that tribal membership was left out of the process of the proposal at its concept.

Also, having a representative of Jeld-Wen at the table only heightens one's suspicions of how many board feet of timber would be cut, and what sort of private deal it has made with the Tribe.

One has to wonder why the Forest Service has had so few timber sales during the last two decades. Could it be we are saving all those ponderosa pine trees for the eventual takeover by the Tribe so they can sell it to Jeld-Wen, circumventing the Endangered Species Act and environmental Protection Agency restrictions now in force as it pertains to the management of our national forests?

If I recall, the Tribes in one of their presentations to the public, stated they wouldn't cut any timber for 50 years. If the last statement is true, then how does this equate with their present proposal? This latest proposal is not a panacea saving us all from economic disaster. If anything, it could just as well create one.

While our elected county officials sit on the fence without passing a resolution opposing this proposal, they face losing the safety net they now receive from the federal government in lieu of timber receipts if ownership of that portion of Fremont-Winema National Forests were to change to the ownership of a sovereign nation. That's 96 percent of Klamath County's road budget.

Other entities such as the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce and the Board of Realtors also need a reality check.

Looking at the map of those 730,000 acres shows how a black hole would be created in our midst.

The loss of 18 percent of the land in Klamath County not only puts a strain on the area's economy, which includes tourism, but also prevents access to the forest by the general public.

Those residents of Klamath County who purchased property within recent years in or near the national forest were either not told of the Tribes' bid to get the land back or it was minimized to the extent that it "would never happen." And, whether you are a new resident or an old one that has property in the aforementioned area, it's like being in a mine field not knowing when the whole thing will explode.

As has been said many times before, the people of the United States now own the forest, and to turn it into the property of a sovereign nation excluding all others would be a travesty. It serves to widen the rift between our Native American neighbors and the remaining residents of Klamath County.

If the time ever comes for public comment, then those who are opposed to any transfer must be heard. But beware: To be part of any formal negotiating committee means you are part of the process of a predetermined outcome and that predetermination is tribal ownership of 730,00 plus acres of National Forest.

Take note public officials and other entities: The forest and its wonderful resources are of benefit to all and should remain in the ownership of the American public.

The author

Averil Anderson was born in Klamath Falls and except for eight years has lived in Southern Oregon for 59 years. Her family came to the Summer Lake and Willow Ranch area in the 1870s moving to Klamath County in 1905 when her great grandfather became sheriff of Klamath County. She is a retired registered nurse and a resident of Klamath County with property within the old reservation that was purchased by her grandfather in the late 1950s. She is secretary of The Basin Alliance, a group formed to oppose giving up public lands for re-establishment of a reservation. The Basin Alliance is located at 2575 Campus Drive. No. 346.




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