Friday, October 26, 2007

DNR - Tribal Hunting, Fishing Consent Decree

In 1976 Abe LeBlanc of the Sault Tribe of Ottawa Indians asserted that he had tribal rights to fish in Lake Superior with a net, under an 1836 treaty. His challenge has been upheld repeatedly in the courts. However, this does not mean that Native Americans can fish whenever and wherever they want, for any species.

In 2005 negotiations began between the tribes and Michigan conservation groups to agree on principles by which the treaty would be honored while protecting natural resources.

Last weekend, a consent decree was signed between the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and five tribes of Native Americans.

Key points of the consent decree:

Tribes may regulate their own subsistence fishing (and hunting, and gathering). In most cases the tribes agreed to limit harvest to 10% of the harvestable surplus of fish and game species. Tribes may use nets, seines, or spears, but not gill nets or snagging. Permits for fishing will be issued through the tribes.

Area rivers specifically protected for brood stock of Chinook and coho salmon are the Little Manistee and the Platte. Tribes will be allowed a "graduated harvest" on these rivers. As the salmon run progresses, additional fishing will be allowed. Steelhead in other streams will be similarly protected.

On inland lakes the DNR's primary concern was for walleye which can dip below critical populations. Tribal regulations will apply, since the harvest quotas are set from the same formulas used by the DNR.

Tribal members may take five deer (as may Michigan residents if they are willing to buy tags in various regions). The tribal deer seasons are longer than state seasons. Hunting deer with dogs, or with lights is not allowed.

Gathering: Small scale commercial operations to collect vegetation for wreaths, or maple sap for syrup are allowed.

In general commercial activity is not allowed. No fish or game may be sold commercially.

Harvested fish and game numbers will be reported to the DNR to allow for unified resource management.

This decree was signed by the Little River, Grand Traverse Bay, Little Traverse Bay, Sault and Bay Mills tribes of the Ottawa Nation.

from an article in the Ludington Daily News, October 24, 2007
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