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Pioneer Press/Klamath CourierJuly 20, 2005Page A1, Column 1

Tribe wants to buy forest

           Tribes unveil proposal for “Balance for the Basin” and purchase of
national forest for astronomical figure

By Pat Ratliff, Klamath Courier Staff Writer

United States Forest Service sign marking site of Tribal Camps.


Tribal camp site on Upper Williamson in the Rocky Ford area.  The waythis spiritual and cultural place is taken care of brings doubt into
some minds about the Tribes ability to care for reservation grounds.

Klamath Falls - The Klamath Tribes, represented by Chairman Alan
Foreman, unveiled a proposal Wednesday to buy back their former
reservation at fair market value.  In what was described as  a “working
session,” Foreman spoke to the Klamath County Commissioners of how
buying back the reservation would bring the Basin together and make for
much more economic potential for the Basin as a whole.

Also speaking were Becky Hyde, Sam Porter, John Crawford, Marshal
Staunton, and Sam Henzel.  All spoke with varying degrees of support for
at least talking about the idea, and most reiterated the notion that any
solution to the problems in the Basin will need to be found and acted
upon locally.  According to the rules of working sessions, the public
was not allowed to speak or add comments, only those at the tables were
given the opportunity to voice their opinions.

“This is a chance to unite the community,”  Foreman told the
Commissioners,  “and also develop a format to build a strong economy
with family wage jobs.  Resolution of The Tribes water rights will bring
certainty to other water users.  These things can only be accomplished
through a coalition of local groups.  Together  we can build a
community  which our kids and grandkids can live with for years to

“Some of us have spent what seems like a big portion of our lives at
water meetings.”  Becky Hyde, a Sprague River rancher, told the
Commissioners,  “But we need to continue to insure our survival, there
is still much work to be done.”

The goal of the proposal is to unite the people and the economic
interests of the Klamath Basin to create a stronger economy and more
family wage jobs through enhanced local control and careful management
of the regions natural resources.

“The Tribe is looking for self-sufficiency,” Sam Porter, vice president
of Jeld-Wen said,  “and no hand outs here, and I applaud that.”

The problem, according to The Tribes, is that the Klamath Basin is
unable to reach its full economic potential due to a persistent
imbalance of critical environmental and economic factors which include
adequate water for multiple uses, including irrigation, availability of
clean, reliable and affordable energy, and sustainably managed  forests
that are less susceptible to policy shift, have a diminished risk of
wildfire, and produce stable revenue for the region.  This imbalance is
due to a lack of local input and control over decisions affecting the
Basin, including natural resource decisions that impact families and our
natural heritage.

“After working in mud all spring up to my ankles, I read in the news
around the first of July that there was enough water for me to farm this
year,”  John Crawford, Tulelake farmer told the Commissioners,  “It
really hit home to me just how far we still have to go.”

The Tribes see the solution as restoring economic certainty to the Basin
by creating solutions that could include the following key elements:

1. Settlement of existing water issues that includes resolution of the
Tribes’ water rights in a long term agreement that creates lasting
certainty for all interests in the Basin.

2.  Fair market purchase of federal lands by the Tribes within their
former Reservation that will provide a stable timber supply and family
wage  jobs in the Basin.

3. The purchase of federal lands would include a binding and enforceable
agreement that protects all existing uses and interests in private and
public lands.

4.  Affordable power for irrigation using biomass derived energy from
the former Reservation that also provides family-wage jobs and economic
benefits to the Basin while simultaneously improving the health of our

“I’ve always hoped that the local Tribes, enviros, agriculture,
businessmen and everyone else could get together and discuss all of
this,”  said Marshal Staunton, a Tulelake farmer.

“Not only can we solve some of these problems,”  Sam Henzel, Lower
Klamath farmer said,  “but we have an obligation to do just that.”

“I never saw any reason to be gifting the land back to the Tribes,”
said Klamath County Commissioner Bill Brown. “But this is different.
They want to pay fair market value for this land, and that deserves to
be talked about and discussed.”

Brown did raise a few questions that definitely need to be answered.

1.  Is the National Forest for sale?

2.  If it is, what money will be used to buy it.

Congressman Greg Walden’s office told the Klamath Courier that the
Winema National Forest is currently not for sale, and that such an act
would require very specific legislative action as to exactly what land
is for sale.

“The ground is the commonality of thought,”  Commissioner John Elliott
said. “It’s not yours or mine, it’s ours.”

“I’ve heard comments about that bucket outside, that it’s racist.”
Elliott continued, “It’s not racist.  I believe it represents this
community.  It balances on two points on the handle, any time the
balance goes out of whack, there is a problem.  The solution to the
problem will be decided here, not in Salem, Sacramento or D.C.”

The consequences, the Tribes say, means economic self?determination for
the Klamath Basin and will occur if these critical  imbalances are
addressed in the form of sustainable, long term solutions that take into
account the needs of the major stakeholders of the region.  Piecemeal
approaches can provide temporary relief but cannot resolve the
underlying imbalances which, until addressed, will continue to deny the
Basin its true economic potential.


While the working session gave a new perspective to The Tribes quest to
regain their reservation land, it answered few, if any, questions and
opened up many more new ones.  Calls to many county, federal and state
officials showed none of them had any knowledge or information about
this new proposal.  The proposal appears to be more an idea than an
actual proposal.  There are no facts or figures offered.  Few if any
hard statements are made.
First thought seems to tell us this vagueness is a good thing, done
purposely so the blanks could be filled in later, after issues have been
hashed out.  In reality, it does just the opposite, leaving so many
questions unanswered that this version seems doomed from the start.
Question 1: Are parts of the Winema and Fremont Forests are for sale to
the Klamath Tribes?
Congressman Walden’s office answered that partly by saying “No, it is
not at this time.”  The possibility of deals or hopes of deals being
made is not out of the question.  Let’s face it, the Federal Government
would love to be done with the whole Klamath Basin mess.  No matter
which side they agree with or feel sympathy toward, most would much
rather have never been involved.

A side question:  If parts of the Winema and Fremont Forests are or
sometime will be for sale to The Tribes, will they be offered to other
citizens or citizens groups also?

There are thousands or maybe millions of citizens who would jump at the
chance to buy an acre or two at even heavily inflated prices.  The
government has a responsibility, if they are going to put the National
Forests up for sale, to get the best price possible.  This can be
accomplished by splitting the forest up into the smallest parcels
allowable and putting each up for sealed bid auction.

One questioned whether the Homeland Security Office would even allow
sales of U.S. Land to sovereign nations.

Question 2:  If it were to be sold, what is the National Forest worth?

A recent sale of similar ground sold for $377 dollars per acre to
Jeld-Wen.  Timber stand evaluations and appraisals would need to be made
of course, and each parcel valued separately.  The land wanted by the
Tribes is approximately 735,000 acres.  There’s a hitch to that though.
Forest land does not pay taxes until the timber is cut, then it is taxed
on the amount of timber. Because the Tribes are a sovereign nation, they
would not pay taxes on the timber when cut, so the estimated price of
the taxes would have to be added to their per acre price to buy the
National Forests.

At $377 dollars per acre, times 735,000 acres, let’s just put a starting
price on the whole area at $277,095,000.  That’s two hundred
seventy-seven million and change.  And then the taxes added of course,
which are probably high.  These figures themselves are very vague, but
they’re a start.

There’s another pesky hitch though.  A check of the real estate listings
on similar and close small properties seems to point to the price of at
least $2000 per acre, plus the price of improvements.  The government
would do better, and has a duty to do better, by splitting the Winema
and Fremont Forests up into small parcels and selling them to citizens,
citizens groups and developers.  The recent infamous Supreme Court
ruling seems to support this.

Now, we have a whopping $1,470,000,000 price tag on those 735,000
acres.  That’s one billion, four hundred seventy million dollars, with a
B.  One can see from those figures the Federal Government would have to
split the property up if it went for sale, it would have no choice.  It
would not be allowed to just give away over one point two billion
dollars, which is the difference between the $377 per acre price and the
development price of $2000.

Question 3:  How would the Tribes raise the money to pay for the Winema
National Forest?

This question is actually immaterial, although being thrown out a
bunch.  As long as the Federal Government doesn’t gift them the money,
either straight up or through loans, credits, etc, they are free to
raise the money however they want.  Just like any other citizen wanting
to buy part of the National Forests, they would need to satisfy credit
checks etc.  Possible deals with mills or timber companies for future
sales is not only legal, but good business.

Question 4: How can a binding and enforceable agreement that protects
all existing uses and interests in private and public land actually be
binding and enforceable when one party is a sovereign nation?

Simply put, it cannot.  Much of the opposition to the Tribes owning
former reservation land is the possible loss of recreation, hunting,
fishing, hiking and camping opportunities.  The opportunities that exist
now are bought and paid for by the citizens of the United States.  The
lands now belong to all citizens of the United States.  It is called a
National Forest, but it is public land, not government land.  The Tribes
are not entitled to benefits not available to all citizens.

The Tribes make it very clear in their written Constitution under
Article IV, sections I, II, and III, to what extent they would use their
sovereign powers to control the lands and all the resources thereon
including all the water resources.  Once the land is acquired,
sovereign  powers would give them the ability to control all resources
to the benefit and use of the Tribe and to the detriment of other
Klamath County residents.

The following is Article IV of the Klamath Tribes Constitution in it’s
Section 1: The sovereign powers, authority and jurisdiction of the
Klamath Tribes extends to all the territory which formerly constituted
the Klamath Reservation, and to all property, airspace, natural
resources, cultural resources, and such other lands or interests that
have been or may thereafter be added thereto by purchase, gift, act of
Congress or otherwise.

A. All lands of the Klamath Tribes and all lands thereafter acquired by
the Klamath Tribes and held for the use of the Tribes or its members
shall be considered a valuable Tribal resource.  Control and management
thereof are vested in the General Council, which may enact laws
governing the use, assignment, permit, lease, or other disposition of
lands, interests in land, and resources of the Tribes.

B.  It shall be the policy of the Klamath Tribes to seek the return, to
the Klamath Tribes, of all lands, natural and cultural resources,
including minerals and water rights that become available and which were
historically a part of the Klamath Tribes heritage.

C.  All waters which originate in or flow through the Klamath Tribes
jurisdiction, or which are stored within the Klamath Tribes
jurisdiction, whether found on the surface or underground, are a
valuable Tribal resource of the Klamath Tribes, and are to be protected
for the present and future use of the tribes.

Section II:  The sovereign powers, authority and jurisdiction of the
Klamath Tribes and it’s government shall extend to all persons and
activities within the territory which formerly  constituted the Klamath
Reservation and is consistent with Federal law.

Section III:  The sovereign powers, authority and jurisdiction of the
Klamath Tribes and its government may extend beyond the geographical
boundaries of the Klamath Tribes territorial jurisdiction.

Question 5:  Can the Tribes take better care of, and make better use of
the land than the Federal Government?

Many would agree the National Forests are in disrepair and need help.
As a sovereign nation, the Tribes may be able to circumvent many of the
environmental laws hampering the Forest Service and make the Forests
profitable again.  But, there’s another pesky hitch.  According to many,
the Tribes are in large part responsible for the very hamstrings of the
Forest Service that put those National Forests in the bad shape they are
in.  In a recent Klamath Courier article, former Forest Service
employees described how the Tribes stopped almost every restoration or
timber sale project the Forest Service proposed,  once they were allowed
to be a part of the decision making process.  Their assertion that they
could do better just does not hold water.  There is also much evidence,
at many of their Tribal Camps, which the USFS gives them Special Use
Permits for, that respect for and a wish to make the land better, are
not practiced at all.  Many are wondering if they would treat the new
reservation land as they would the Tribal Camps.

The new reservation proposal is interesting, if very vague.  A public
meeting at the Commissioners Meeting room is being planned for the
future to allow more facts and discussion.  Dates and times to follow.





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