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(Klamath) Tribes look at forest land transfer. Returning tribal land could help move water pact forward
Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry said more than 100 tribal members attended a Saturday general council meeting in Chiloquin, where the issue was discussed. Gentry said he is hopeful discussions and legislation will keep moving forward.Although a replacement parcel for the Mazama Forest hasn’t been identified, members have not indicated that the Tribes should pull out of the complex water agreement. To do so, the tribes have to proceed with an agreement termination process, and no such motion was made to do so, Gentry said.
“I believe tribal members are in support of the return of our reservation land,” Gentry said.Gentry said tribal members will continue working to identify a parcel to replace the Mazama Forest, a 90,000-acre tract that was sold earlier this year to a Singapore-based company.
The Tribes were hoping to obtain the Mazama land to develop a lumber mill and spur economic development for tribal members. Indications are that the Singapore company is not interested in selling the land to the tribes.Transferring former reservation land that is now part of the Fremont-Winema National Forest is being explored by state and federal officials, as well as the Tribes. According to the Associated Press, staff for Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley confirmed they are working with the tribes on a plan to transfer part of the southern Oregon forest — once part of the Klamath reservation — back to tribal ownership.
If the Klamath agreement fell apart, it would unravel complex water sharing deals irrigators, conservationists and the Tribes have been relying on to survive the region’s prolonged and continuing drought, the AP reported.“Sen. Wyden is more determined than ever to bring these agreements into law,” Wyden’s spokesman Hank Stern told the AP. “He is working now with the Forest Service and others to see how the current obstacles can be turned into opportunities.”
Gentry said if a suitable parcel is identified, a land transfer will have to be written into the existing legislation, Senate Bill 133, known as the Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act.ljarrell@heraldandnews . com; @LMJatHandN
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