St. Paul Business and fishing interests outlined their concerns
with treaty management on Lake Mille Lacs recently during an
hour-long, face-to-face November meeting with Gov. Jesse
During the meeting on Nov. 20, Eddy Lyback, president of the
Mille Lacs Lake Advisory Association presented Ventura with nearly
20,000 signatures the group had gathered via a petition since last
summer. The petition, which appeared in Outdoor News in June,
carried the headline “Do Something For Mille Lacs!” The Advisory
Association began circulating the petition following a mid-season
tightening of the walleye regulation on Lake Mille Lacs because
fisheries managers feared the state might exceed its poundage
Lyback said the Mille Lacs contingent started the meeting with
Ventura by clearly stating that advisory association members and
area businesses recognize, respect, and abide by the U.S. Supreme
Court decision in the 1837 Treaty case. Mille Lacs area residents
and fishing interests did not request face-time with the governor
to rehash treaty litigation, Lyback said.
“The governor said that he was pleased to hear that, and that he
felt the same way even though he didn’t necessarily agree with (the
ruling),” Lyback said.
On its action list, the group requested that the governor and
state use “whatever leverage possible” to fight for an equitable
split of resources as the bands propose their next five-year treaty
plan. The bands have told the state they will unveil their proposal
for the next five years, which begins with the 2003 fishing season,
by the end of the month.
“We’d like the state to convince the bands that a 50-50 split is
not in best interest of anyone,” Lyback said.
The group also requested that the state support increased
funding for the DNR Fisheries Division to enhance and expand
studies monitoring sportfish and baitfish populations on Lake Mille
Lacs. Only armed with the best data possible can DNR biologists
make the best decisions for the resource upon which their
businesses depend, Lyback said.
Craig Hagman, who represented area tourism, also requested
increased funding for getting out the word that despite the treaty
ruling and walleye regulations in flux, fishing on the big lake has
been excellent. The group did not present any formal requests for
funding, Lyback said.
“The governor was pretty clear that with the state facing a ($2
billion) deficit, not to expect much in that regard when the state
is looking at heavy cuts across the board,” Lyback said.
Finally, the group also requested that the governor “demonstrate
leadership in defending state sovereignty in the face of a current
challenge to convert 61,000 acres of northern Mille Lacs County
into (Indian Country) by resurrection of the Mille Lacs Indian
Reservation as established by treaty of 1855.”
Also present at the meeting representing the state were DNR
Commissioner Al Garber, DNR Assistant Commissioner for Operations
Brad Moore, Assistant Commissioner for Administration Kim Bonde,
and DNR Fisheries Director Ron Payer. Mille Lacs area attendees
included Lyback, Terry McQuoid, Craig Hagman, Bill Lundeen, Greg
Fisher, and Mark Crowl.
Lyback said the governor showed keen interest and depth of
knowledge on the issues affecting the Mille Lacs area. He and
Garber did most of the talkings with the group, he said.
“He took a particular interest in anything to do with the
budget, especially how this affects tourism dollars,” Lyback
Brad Moore, DNR assistant commissioner for operations, said
Commissioner Garber committed to being engaged and trying to make
the walleye regulation on Mille Lacs as consistent as possible from
year to year. The state will try and provide multiple-year options
when it pitches regulations to the Mille Lacs Fisheries Input
Group, which meets in late January each year, to devise a walleye
regulation for the big lake.
“It was a good meeting and conversation with a lot of dialogue,”
Moore said. “Lyback and the other folks got down to key points and
did a nice job of making use of their time.
“The governor has friends who fish on Mille Lacs and he was very
knowledgeable about the situation.”
Fisheries Director Payer noted that the 2002 January Input Group
meeting will focus on a one-year regulation for next year because
that represents the final year in the bands’ original five-year
phase-in of treaty harvest. The bands will be eligible to harvest
110,000 pounds of walleyes under the plan next year.
Another possible option for Lake Mille Lacs could include
starting with a more conservative regulation early in the open
water season, when a high percentage of fishing occurs on the big
lake, then liberalizing the reg as the season progresses, Payer
Payer added that the possibility of allowing a “nontechnical
observer” to the state-tribal technical committee meetings,
scheduled for mid-January remains unresolved. The bands initially
have opposed the state-driven proposal, and Payer said he is
negotiating the point with the bands.