December 9th, 2010
One of the most puzzling aspects of the August 6, 2010 release of the Mitchell Act Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is the degree to which NMFS in drafting the DEIS ignored its treaty trust obligations to consult with Northwest Treaty Tribes who reserved fishing rights in their respective treaties. The list of Northwest Indian tribes with which NMFS did consult is quite revealing, in that it excludes the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes (the Yakama Nation, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, and the Nez Perce Tribe), but includes such groups as the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, the Upper Columbia United Tribes, and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Reservation. Apart from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, which have limited treaty fishing rights, none of the rest of these groups has treaty fishing rights at all.
Under the 2008-2017 US v. Oregon Management Agreement, to which NMFS is a party, the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes, individually and collectively as represented by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), are defined as co-managers of Columbia River fisheries. Yet they were excluded from consultation in a process that proposed to seriously diminish the abundance of salmonids in the Columbia River Basin, thus threatening to seriously diminish their treaty fisheries.
Attached below are two excellent tribal commentaries on the Mitchell Act DEIS. The first is a 12-page letter from Terry Williams, Commissioner for Fisheries and Natural Resources for the Tulalip Tribes, to Will Stelle, Regional Administrator for NMFS Northwest Region in Seattle. The second is the final set of commentaries hand-delivered by CRITFC to NMFS Northwest Region at their Portland office on Friday, December 3, 2010. Both are fascinating documents highly critical of the Mitchell Act DEIS and the failure of NMFS to live up to its treaty trust obligations.
For those in rural areas still on dial-up, be warned that both the PDFs of the Tulalip letter and the 66-page set of CRITFC commentaries are large files. The Tulalip letter is over 6 MB in size, and the CRITFC commentaries are over 1 MB in size. CRITFC has the capability to post the CRITFC commentaries on its own website, and is expected to do so soon. Once CRITFC has posted the DEIS commentaries on its website (www.critfc.org), a link will be provided to the HTML version posted there, which may be faster to load for those accessing the Internet over rural phone systems.