DNR, bands disagree over observer’ idea

Rob Drieslein

Editor

St. Paul Tribal representatives have told the Minnesota DNR that
they oppose a proposal that would allow an observer to attend
technical committee meetings between the state and bands.

Each January, the Minnesota DNR and representatives from eight
Ojibwe bands and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife
Commission convene to determine the safe allowable walleye harvest
for Lake Mille Lacs. In recent months, the Minnesota DNR has told
the Mille Lacs Fisheries Input Group that the agency would like to
have a “nontechnical observer” at that winter meeting. Such an
observer could see firsthand that state representatives typically
DNR fisheries biologists are indeed defending their numbers and
representing state interests to the best of their ability.

“The groups are concerned that we’re not representing our
numbers and standing behind them enough,” said DNR Fisheries
Division Director Ron Payer. “We think it would be valuable from
our perspective to have a public representative there. We feel that
we’re representing biology very well and have no problems with an
observer coming in.”

But at a face-to-face meeting on Oct. 9 between the bands and
DNR Fisheries staffers, the two sides could not reach consensus on
the proposal, Payer said. Following the treaty management dispute
resolution protocols, Payer said he will send a formal letter to
GLIFWC later this week outlining the state’s proposal and
disagreement.

Payer said he then hopes to discuss, probably via telephone in
early November, the disagreement with Neil Kmiecik, biological
services director with Odanah, Wis.-based GLIFWC.

“We’ll see if we can sway him,” Payer said.

If the two sides agree, the DNR intends to ask the Input Group
for three nominees to serve as the nontechnical observer. The
department would then select the observer from those three people,
Payer said.

The role of the “public observer” would be not to participate in
discussion, but to monitor the dialogue that transpires at the
meeting, Payer said.

If not the bands continue to oppose the concept, the next step
would be mediation, Payer said. Though committed to hearing out
Kmiecik and the bands’ concerns to the observer, Payer said the
state is serious about bringing one to the meeting.

“We’ll hear out his reasons, but yeah, we’re looking to get an
observer there,” Payer said. “We’ll push the issue a bit and see if
we can make this happen.”

GLIFWC did not return calls or queries from Outdoor News on
Tuesday requesting an explanation for the bands’ opposition.

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