Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Bands raise the stakes with DNR

Overage issue likely bound for mediation

By Rob Drieslein

Editor

St. Paul A letter from tribal natural resource managers in the
1837 Territory last week raised the bar on band complaints about
state walleye overharvest on Lake Mille Lacs in 2002.

The bands, according to letter dated Aug. 7, call on the DNR to
resolve their concerns over excess walleye harvest by curtailing
the state walleye fishery during the balance of the 2002 fishing
year. The bands also call for compensating for the “overage” next
year, presumably by decreasing the state’s quota. Curt Kalk,
commissioner of natural resources for the Mille Lacs Band,
Ferdinand Martineau, commissioner of natural resources for the Fond
du Lac Band, and Neil E. Kmiecik, biological services director of
the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, signed the
letter.

In the event that the state and bands can’t come to consensus on
the matter during a conference call this week, the issue could be
headed for mediation, according to Ron Payer, DNR Fisheries
director. If that fails, the bands would then have the option of
challenging the state in court over the dispute.

“We’re trying to hook up via conference call on Thursday,” Payer
told Outdoor News on Tuesday. “We’ll hear their perspectives and
give ours and if we don’t reach consensus, we’ll look into
selecting a mediator from a mediation firm.”

Lake Mille Lacs has a total safe allowable walleye harvest of
400,000 pounds in 2002 100,000 pounds for the eight bands of
Ojibwe, and 300,000 pounds for state-licensed anglers. As of the
end of July, the state attributed 398,000 pounds of walleye
mortality to anglers, including 237,000 pounds of release
mortality. That puts state-licensed anglers at nearly 100,000
pounds over the state’s quota for 2002, a fact that the bands
objected to earlier this summer.

Band biologists outlined those concerns to the state at the
twice-yearly treaty technical committee meetings in July. At the
meetings, the state stood by its assertion that it would not alter
the 14- to 16-inch harvest slot on Lake Mille Lacs this year. The
DNR still stands by that promise to state anglers, Payer said.

“We’ve stated our position and I presume that’s what invoked the
response,” Payer said. “We won’t be more restrictive, and we’re
standing by that.”

Strict guidelines exist for resolving disputes over resource
management in the 1837 Treaty Ceded Territory, Payer said. The
first step,is to refer disputes where the technical committee
cannot find consensus to the state’s fisheries director. That’s
what the bands chose to do in the letter that Payer received last
Wednesday, he said.

“That’s the process, and we’ll see when we talk if there are any
other alternatives,” he said.

Asked if a simple conference call could resolve the matter,
given the fact that the state and bands met face to face just a few
weeks ago, Payer replied, “I’m not sure it can be resolved without
mediation.”

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