White Earth Nation has resubmitted its proposal, "Protecting Forest Wildlife Habitat in the Wild Rice River Watershed," for consideration for a grant by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) for Fiscal Year 2017.
The Ojibwe band is requesting $2,188,000 to acquire the land and protect 2,034 acres of forestland, riparian corridors, and open meadows that are home to bald eagles, trumpeter swans, black bear, gray wolves, whitetail deer, grouse and "much more," according to the proposal (see fact sheet and proposal embedded below.
The proposal, which received a score of 617.5 of 720 (78%) from the council members, will be heard on September 2, 2015, at 1:40 p.m., Room 5, State Office Building, St. Paul, as part of the council's review of proposals.
Already approved by the LSOHC, the proposal was stripped from the Outdoor Heritage funding request in committee, as Bluestem reported in January's Green amendment swipes Outdoor Heritage Fund proposal from White Earth Reservation.
While Steve Green, R-Fosston, objected to the proposal over issues related to payment in lieu of taxes (PILT), the proposal has been opposed by those irate over Ojibwe bands prohibiting wolf hunting on tribal lands. Traditional Ojibwe religion and culture cherish the gray wolf.
Bluestem had continued our coverage of the issue with New chair of Lessard-Sams Council Bob Anderson not a fan of native sovereignty in March, and PiPress outdoors reporter Dave Orrick takes on issues in White Earth Legacy funding woes and More HF303 Justice: Kahn speaks up for White Earth Nation's Wild Rice River Legacy project.
According to the Indian Land Tenure Foundation's Chris Knopf, the Wild Rice River proposal wasn't the only proposal that raised PILT issues, but it was the only one shot down by the legislature because of the issue. In a phone interview, Knopf said that the legislature should address perceived PILT problems separately, rather than punishing one grant applicant over the matter.
It's clear from the Council members' evaluations of the re-submitted project that these tensions will continue despite the high conservation value of the project. Anderson--a Bakk LSOHC appointee whom Aaron Brown speculates could possibly run as a Republican for the Minnesota House seat left vacant by the tragic death of David Dill--gave the project a very low score (26) as did Alexandria Republican Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen (36.5).
The dynamics are already in play in published summaries of the council members' comments. Council member Jane Kingston commented: "No PILT for 2034ac/$2.1M," while frequent native sovereignty critic Ron Schara wrote, "Need to discuss this proposal about changes. Legislature already eliminated it???"
Representative Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, raised the question of using the concept in the proposal, but stripping it from the control of the indigenous nation: "Should consider as a DNR WMA or AMA."
Susan Olson welcomed the re-appearance of the proposal: "Thank you for bringing this project back to the Council, it should never have been removed by the legislature for the last funding cycle. Good job addressing all of the points of contention raised by legislators during discusions of the bill. **Note re: criteria #8 - phrasing is specific to only restoration or enhancements, so a straight acquisition will be penalized because it is not possible to award any points based on the criteria."
Another wild card in the Council's future? Outdoor advocate Dill's death created a vacancy. Bluestem will have more more when we learn about the recommendation of Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, to fill the seat on the Council.
Bluestem believes it's a fine conservation project, made more urgent because the timber company that currently owns the property is actively offering more than 1500 for sale and the land may slip from public access if these games continue.
The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council was established by the legislature with the responsibility of providing annual funding recommendations to the legislature from the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, receives one-third of the money raised by the tax increase.
Here's a fact sheet about the project:
Here's the grant application:
And finally, a set of maps to put the project and the White Earth Nation in perspective in the state's wildlife ecosystems:
Photo: A scene from the proposal.
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