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Tribes consider buying old land

7/19/2005, 1:09 a.m. PT

The Associated Press

   

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) The Klamath Tribes have floated the idea of buying former reservation lands now held by the U.S. Forest Service.

The suggestion was included in a four-point plan that purports to unite all parties involved in the Klamath water issue. The tribes gave the Klamath County Board of Commissioners a one-page summary of it last week.

Tribal leaders have previously suggested that the federal government give the land back. In this plan, the tribes would buy it.

"I want to emphasize it again, a fair-market purchase," said Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes.

The tribes, formerly known as the Klamath Tribe, once had a 1.2-million acre reservation in central Klamath and Lake counties. Most of the land became national forest when the tribe was terminated in 1961.

Federal recognition was restored in 1986, and tribal leaders say regaining the land is a vital step toward economic self sufficiency.

The tribes were joined at last week's meeting with commissioners by former state Sen. Steve Harper, Jeld-Wen Senior Vice President Sam Porter and farmers and ranchers.

The group told the commissioners that the plan though lacking in details is worth a look.

"I have a hard time objecting to the tribes purchasing the land," Porter said. "I think they will do a better job managing the forests then the federal government."

Karen Shimamoto, supervisor of the Fremont-Winema National Forest, said she hadn't been made aware of the plan.

Four key elements were highlighted in the proposal:

Fair-market purchase of federal lands by the Tribes within their former reservation that would provide a stable timber supply.

Purchase of federal lands that would induce a binding and enforceable agreement that protects all existing uses and interests in private and public lands.

Settlement of existing water issues that creates lasting certainty for all interests in the Basin.

Affordable power for irrigation using biomass derived energy from the former reservation.

The Tribes said the energy plan would keep power rates down for Klamath Basin irrigators, whose rates could start rising sharply next year when a half-century old contract with Pacific Power expires.

A public meeting on the plan is to be scheduled for sometime in August.

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