Thursday, January 5, 2012
Klamath Tribes’ water rights confirmed in the Klamath Basin Water Rights Adjudication
The Proposed Orders confirmed that the amounts of water claimed by the Tribes and the United States are the amounts necessary to establish and maintain a healthy and productive habitat for treaty species that will enable the Tribes to exercise their treaty protected hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering rights. “The Proposed Orders give everyone in the Basin plenty to think about,” said Jeff Mitchell who leads the Klamath Tribes’ Negotiating Team. The Team has been working hard on settlement negotiations regarding Klamath Basin water and related resource issues, resulting in the recent introduction of legislation to enact the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement. “These rulings highlight the role that the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement can play in resolving Basin water issues. The Tribes will be evaluating the rulings and discussing them with others in the Basin to determine the best path from here on.”
Significantly, Administrative Law Judge Joe Allen ruled that the Tribal water right claims may extend to off-reservation water sources where necessary to support the Tribes’ on-reservation treaty harvest rights. Judge Allen reasoned that the Tribes’ off-reservation claims are necessary “to protect spawning and other critical habitat necessary for the exercise of [the Tribes’] treaty rights.”
“This is an important step in the Adjudication. The cases will move on to Klamath County Circuit Court where much work remains to be done. Meanwhile, it is a time for the Tribes to feel good about their commitment to protecting Treaty water rights and other resources,” said Tribal Attorney, Bud Ullman.
Along with Klamath Water Adjudication Project attorneys Bud Ullman and Sue Noe, the Native American Rights Fund has represented the Klamath Tribes throughout the Klamath Basin Adjudication process. “A lot of thanks needs to be shared with all those involved over the past three decades, including NARF attorneys Walter Echo-Hawk (ret.) and David Gover, our colleagues at the US Department of Justice and Bureau of Indian Affairs, and of course the leadership and members of the Klamath Tribes but with that said there is a lot of work yet to come” said, NARF Executive Director, John Echohawk.
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