Saturday, November 1, 1997

766 and counting: Yellowstone buffalo dying to be free

by Terri Crawford Hansen
News from Indian Country
Bureau Chief/Pacific Northwest Bureau

Yellowstone National Park, Montana—Severe winter conditions at Yellowstone National Park have caused starvation among this countries last free-ranging buffalo. Unable to forage, hundreds are following snowmobile tracks to lower elevations in search of food. For those who make it to the park's boundary, it's a collision with butchery.

The slaughter stems from a fear that brucellosis, a bacterium that causes cows to abort, could spread to area cattle. About half of the park's buffalo have tested positive for brucellosis in past years, and ten percent are infectious.

An Interim Bison Management Plan between Montana and the federal government calls for the slaughter of all buffalo who reach the park's boundary. Over 700 buffalo have been killed this year.

"The plan was meant to restrict migration to areas grazed by cattle in the spring and summer," said Paul C. Pritchard, president of the 78-year-old National Parks and Conservation Association. "The bison do not come within miles of cattle." NPCA advocates vaccination and proper land management to prevent buffalo and cattle contact.

Critics say the park and the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have caved in to Montana's demands. "ADAPHIS is not allowing any animal from this herd to be shipped even though they are testing negative," said NPCA spokesman Mark Peterson. "They have a zero-tolerance policy, but it does not address the 100,000 elk in the park, some of which carry brucellosis."

Dedicated to restoring the buffalo in the spiritual and cultural ways of the people, the 40 tribes that make up the Inter Tribal Bison Cooperative are turning their efforts to populating tribal lands with disease-free buffalo from Yellowstone.

"We are making an effort to get those buffalo out of there alive," declared executive director Mark Heckert. "We are shocked and dismayed that this goes on. The buffalo is sacred to most tribes in the country -- every native culture has a word for buffalo."

A joint agreement between ITBC and the 61-year-old National Wildlife Federation to advocate the quarantine of buffalo under accepted disease management protocols would move disease-free buffalo onto Indian lands.

Montana Governor Marc Racicot rejected any alternative to slaughter, but he later indicated cooperation with the ITBC agreement.

"Not so," said Montana's state veterinarian, Dr. Clarence Siroky. "These animals are from an infected herd. State vets in the 49 other states will determine whether that happens."

Siroky admits brucellosis is transmitted only by close contact, but does not agree that the animals should re-populate tribal lands. "Can you imagine if these animals went to a reservation? They would jeopardize (the tribes') ability to market their cattle."

Those at the scene say the buffalo are being slaughtered without honor. "The scene is tragic," said Pritchard. "Animals goring one another as they are crammed into pens and trucks for slaughter. Three calves had their horns broken off and were bleeding profusely. An adult female was badly gored with broken ribs. Meanwhile, more bison are stacking up near the pens."

Killed buffalo go to participating Indian nations, who must pick up the animals where they were shot. That meant 300 miles for Ken Morin, buffalo manager at the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana. The tribe received 27 buffalo this year.

"We do the sweetgrass ceremony and thank Creator before taking the buffalo," said Morin. Every part of the buffalo is distributed to tribal members, and they make use of "all the animal, every part, even the intestines."

On January 31, Heckert confirmed that Racicot agreed to cooperate with the ITBC/NWF proposal to "capture and quarantine buffalo under accepted disease management protocols; bison that pass quarantine will then be made available to the tribes for reintroduction to tribal lands."

Concurrently, spokeswoman Stacy Churchwill said that the park's policy of slaughtering all stray buffalo was still in place.

The Fund for Animals and a number of other organizations around the country are now calling for a boycott of Montana tourism to protest the policy.

Yellowstone's herd numbered 3,500, not including this winter's natural mortality. At January's end, almost 600 of those buffalo had perished, according to five well-known organizations.

Tuesday, July 15, 1997

Deregulation report threat to thirteen Columbia River Basin tribes, wildlife and salmon

By Terri Crawford Hansen
News from Indian Country

WASHINGTON, D.C.--"Seriously flawed."

Mincing no words Wendell Hannigan, vice-chair of Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission, described to a House Subcommittee a Comprehensive Review report that endorsed changes in the Northwest energy system as defective.

According to CRITFC, the Comprehensive Review report — released in early June which touts disregulation — could have a severe impact in the Pacific Northwest on the federal government's commitment to fish and wildlife protection and restoration.

Yakama member Hannigan — who holds a position with their Fish and Wildlife Committee — announced that "utilities and industries have focused on increasing their own profits and not protecting the region's natural resources."

Utilities and large industrial power users of the federal government are trying to use energy deregulation as a pretext for dividing up the benefits of the Columbia River at the expense of region residents, Columbia Basin Indian tribes, and the area's fish and wildlife, he states.

Proposals in the report were unlikely to meet the federal government's obligations to protect and restore resources that are critically important to the tribes, especially salmon, he added.

The Bonneville Power Administration supports efforts to concentrate the wealth of the river into the hands of a few, Hannigan charged.

CRITFC's Wana Chinook Tymoo reported overall areas for concern as being the subscription process (contracting to purchase federal power), fish and wildlife funding, separation of energy generation and transmission, public purposes, consumer access and river governance.

Umatilla member Jay Minthorne disproved the report. "We believe the region can meet both its fish and wildlife obligations and still provide economical electricity."

Sunday, June 15, 1997

Nez Perce return home

by Terri Crawford Hansen
News from Indian Country

Sometimes we do it right.

The month of June marked a right and momentous celebration for the Nez Perce, the people of Chief Joseph or "Hinmat'owyalaht'qit" — "Thunder Coming Up Over the Land," and his descendents.

Returning to their beloved Wallowa valley for the first time — many riding their famed Appaloosa horses — was more than a meaningful eloquent ride. This was a promise kept to Chief Joseph 120 years ago, after they were chased out by a 15-week attack by the U.S. Calvary.

The Nez Perce, who call themselves Nimipu, "The Real People, " received through the Trust for Public Land, over 10,000 lush acres into ownership of their native lands.

From here on in, the land will be known as Chief Joseph Ranch.

Celebrations began June 12, when the Nez Perce celebrated a name-giving ceremony. Other events included a pow-wow memorial, dancing, give-aways, and ended with a June 17 Memorial for those Nez Perce killed in the U.S.-Indian conflicts.

June 15 saw a dedication of the Wolf Education and Research Center, to commemorate the tribe's participation in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife reintroduction of gray wolves from Canada to Idaho .

"The Trust for Public Land has been saving land for people for 25 years," says Susan Ives, vice president and director of public affairs. They have worked with a number of Indian tribes in the past, she says, but this is their first transaction with the Nez Perce tribe.

The tribe plans to restore the mountainous land to wilderness with native elk, salmon, berries, roots and grasses.

No one is expected to live on the land except for a caretaker.

Monday, January 20, 1997

EPA picks national American Indian Environmental Office head

by Terri C. Hansen
News from Indian Country
Pacific Northwest Bureau Chief

Washington, D.C. - The Environmental Protection Agency has appointed Kathy Gorospe as the new executive director of the American Indian Environmental Office in Washington, D.C.

In this senior management position Ms. Gorospe, an enrolled Laguna Pueblo, will report directly to EPA Administrator Carol Browner. Her responsibilities include coordination and oversight of EPA's Indian programs, federal agency and tribal operations, training on tribal environmental concerns, cultural and legal issues.

"I am very honored to be selected for this position," Gorospe said . "I think it's a reflection of the work I've done on behalf of Columbia River Inter-tribal Fish Commission and in part, a reflection of the high regard the Administration and particularly other tribes have for this organization."

Gorospe, who earned a law degree from Oregon's Willamette University, served as executive director of Oregon's Commission on Indian Services from 1980 to 1987, and since 1990 has been executive assistant for the CRITFC in Portland, Ore.

Thursday, January 16, 1997

Klamath Nation fighting for treaty rights on federal forest lands

By Terri C. Hansen
News from Indian Country
Pacific Northwest Bureau Chief

CHILOQUIN, Ore. The Klamath Tribe is not satisfied with a U.S. Forest Service decision to include former Klamath reservation lands in future timber sales and recreational development plans.

The decision jeopardizes Klamath treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather due to the disastrous impact logging has had on the Tribe's traditional resources, tribal representatives say.

Tribal leaders met in October with John Lowe, administrator of 19 national forests in Oregon and Washington, to request that timber sales and development plans be suspended on former reservation lands currently managed by the Forest Service. The Klamaths requested an Environmental Impact Statement to address the impact of logging and recreational activities on their subsistence resources, which they say have dwindled due to logging practices and other intrusions on the land.

The Tribe arranged a second meeting in mid-November to negotiate an agreement regarding the protection of their treaty rights within the boundaries of their former reservation.

At that meeting, Lowe told tribal leaders the Forest Service has involved the Tribe in the planning process for the past fifteen years, but added that the Forest Service would be willing to work with the Tribe on a higher level in the future. During a press conference following the meeting, however, Lowe stated he told tribal leaders there would be no suspension of timber sales, nor would an environmental impact statement would be prepared for former reservation lands.

The Klamaths dispute Lowe's statement regarding their involvement in the planning process. The Forest Service still makes the decisions and then asks the Tribe to cooperate, the Klamath newsletter reported.

Elwood Miller, Jr., the Klamath Tribes Natural Resource Specialist, responded to Lowe's remarks in a news interview shortly after the November meeting.

"The Tribe's request to specifically have an EIS done within our treaty rights area of 1954 is because our resources are in such a diminished state," Miller said. "Forest Service activities have a direct impact on the populations of resources that we use as a tribe. Our resources, such as our sucker fish, trout, mule deer, etc., are being pushed aside for their timber commodity. In that, I don't think the Forest Service has been fair to the tribe or the resources of the forest.

"The biggest problem I see with the Forest Service is that they are an economic commodity driven on a timber base. That's how they make money."

Miller said that the Klamath Tribe has not been included in Forest Service discussions involving plans for their treaty rights areas, so the Tribe has had to come in after the fact and try to protect their subsistence rights through the appeals process. "In our opinion that is a direct violation of the government-to-government relationship," Miller said.

The Klamath Tribe was terminated in 1954 by the United States during a period of damaging government policies by the Eisenhower administration that affected tribes across the country. The Klamaths lost their land at termination, but in 1974 Kimbol vs. Callahan reaffirmed the hunting, fishing and gathering rights of the Klamath on former reservation lands.

In 1986 the Klamaths successfully regained their tribal status but no land base. They received a total of $220 million dollars from the federal government as compensation for their reservation at termination, but timber revenues totaling more than $405 million have since been paid to the federal government. During their 25 years of non-recognition they received no federal benefits, a loss to the Tribe of an estimated $112 million.

Today, as the basis of an economic self-sufficiency plan required as part of federal re-recognition, the Klamaths are seeking a return of 680,000 acres of their former reservation. The plan, while allowing some logging, calls for restoring the health of the forests within their land base.