The Progressive


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For Immediate Release
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Bid to Carve Tribal Park out of Redwood National Park

Yurok Tribe Push Legislation to Take Over Scenic Park, Forest & Sanctuary Lands


An Indian tribe is seeking federal backing
for legislation transferring portions of Redwood National Park, Six
Rivers National Forest and marine sanctuary waters off northern
California to be run as a tribal park, according to documents posted
today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Targeted lands are among the most beautiful spots along the rugged coast
where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Draft legislation sent to the National Park Service by the lobbyist for
the Yurok Tribe would award the tribe title to and/or management
authority over thousands of acres of federal lands, including -

  • 1,200 acres of Redwood National Park;
  • 1,400 acres of the Six Rivers National Forest, now set aside as an old growth preserve; and
  • Redding Rock, a sea stack five miles offshore, together with joint management of surrounding federal marine sanctuary waters.

The bill would also appropriate $50 million in federal funds to purchase
nearby private lands for the Yurok. The Tribe's lobbyist and "point
person" for the deal, T. Destry Jarvis, a Clinton-era Interior
Department (DOI) appointee and older brother of current National Park
Service (NPS) Director Jonathan Jarvis, acknowledged that the draft bill
goes beyond previous land transfers of park lands to Tribes and will
require "signoff from higher levels of NPS and DOI," according to a May
21, 2010 e-mail to Redwood Superintendent Steve Cheney obtained by PEER
under the Freedom of Information Act.

"This would be an unprecedented and unjustified giveaway of treasured
public resources," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that
the effort was taking place behind-the-scenes. "These lands are held
in common for all citizens of the U.S., including the Yuroks, and that
is the way they should stay."

Congress has created few national parks with as much struggle as was
required to protect the remaining stands of Redwoods. Established in
1968, expanded in 1978, the Park Service acquired largely
privately-owned lands to forge a magnificent park on the north coast of
California. The lands lay one mile on either side of the Klamath River
and were once part of the Yurok ancestral homeland, and remain important
to it; however, the same can be said for most national park lands which
have similar histories.

The draft legislation stipulates that ceded lands "will be administered
by the Tribe in a manner fully compatible with the policies and programs
of the respective federal agencies" - in this instance, the four
agencies would be the NPS, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and
the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (which operates
federal marine sanctuaries). Nonetheless, the Yurok record in this area
has been marked by controversy over lamprey fishing, killing
salmon-eating sea lions (in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection
Act) as well as plans to build an eco-lodge in the park.

"The danger in these arrangements is that politics tends to take
precedence over resource protection," added Ruch, pointing to the
painful history of problems with tribal management at the National Bison
Range, a century-old federal wildlife refuge in Montana. "The reason
for a Yurok transfer is not to benefit the lands or the wildlife but to
settle a political score."

This gambit is one of a growing number of tribal overtures entangling
nation parks. In August, PEER filed a complaint about park managers
acceding to Indian requests to remove plants and cultural artifacts in
violation of NPS regulations with the approval of NPS Director Jon
Jarvis and strong support of the National Association of Tribal Historic
Preservation Officers, which is also represented by Destry Jarvis.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.