March 19, 2002
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INTERIOR SECRETARY TO BEGIN DISCUSSIONS WITH KLAMATH TRIBES ON RESERVATION AND WATER RIGHTS
CHILOQUIN, OR – The Klamath Tribes express support and appreciation for Interior Secretary Gale Norton's announcement that she will initiate discussions with the Tribes on two vital issues: the role of the Klamath Tribes' water rights in recovering the Klamath Tribes' fisheries and resolving Klamath Basin water conflicts, and the possible restoration of the Klamath Tribes' former reservation.
"Secretary Norton is asking the right questions and taking the right steps," said Klamath Tribal Chairman Allen Foreman. "Honoring the Klamath Tribes' water rights so our fisheries can recover is central to any resolution of water conflicts in the Klamath Basin. We approach these discussions knowing that a healthy agricultural economy also depends on water. And we believe that restoring the Klamath Tribes homeland is essential, not only to returning our own people to economic self-sufficiency, but to rebuilding a sustainable economy for all our neighbors in the Klamath Basin."
"The Klamath Tribes retain the legal right to fish, gather and hunt on those parts of their former reservation in southern Oregon now controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and also own the primary water rights necessary to sustain the Tribes' fishing, gathering and hunting. Secretary
Norton's announcement comes as she has begun to chair a Cabinet-level task force appointed by President George W. Bush, to try to resolve conflicts about water shortages, environmental damage, and Tribal rights in the Klamath Basin.
For thousands of years, the Klamath Tribes lived on 22 million acres in southwest Oregon and northern California. The Treaty of 1864 created a 2.2-milion acre reservation for the Klamath Tribes. In 1954 Congress terminated the Klamaths' tribal status and sold their reservation lands. Approximately 690,000 acres of those reservation lands became parts of the Winema and Fremont National Forests. It is those former reservation lands now in the National Forests that may once again become the Klamath Tribes' reservation.
When the Tribes managed their reservation for the first half of the 20th Century, there was a thriving local timber industry, some of the largest mule deer herds in Oregon, and a fishery that produced more than 50 tons of fish each year. "The Klamath Tribes cared well for these lands for thousands of years," Chairman Foreman added. "Now, the land desperately needs restoration. Everyone in the Klamath Basin will benefit when we rebuild the deer herds, fisheries, forests, wetlands and streams. We thank Secretary Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman for showing the leadership to deal with these issues that must be resolved in order to help solve the Basin's economic, resource management, and environmental problems."
Chairman Foreman concluded: "While state agencies have played a role, for the most part it has been the federal government that over-promised the limited waters of the Klamath Basin. This is the first time I've seen the federal executive branch, at the very highest level, step up to its responsibilities and take actions that could heal the land and water while helping the Tribes and all people in the Klamath Basin. Secretary Norton, Secretary Veneman, and all members of President Bush's task force will have our full cooperation."
Klamath Tribes: www.klamathtribes.org