DNR, Grand Portage Band heading to arbitration over moose hunting

St. Paul — A brief meeting Monday between state DNR and tribal officials failed to resolve a disagreement between the parties regarding moose hunting in northeastern Minnesota. Therefore, according to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, the state will move forward with arbitration to settle the matter.

Landwehr said that while the Bois Forte Band of Lake Superior Chippewa followed suit and, like the state, canceled its moose hunt for this fall, the Grand Portage Band intends to allow members to hunt moose, even though the population has plummeted from an estimate of near 9,000 just six years ago, to about 2,760 this year. This year’s estimate also was 35 percent lower than what last year’s survey indicated.

“The band can always change its mind,” Landwehr said following the meeting. “But we had to get the wheels turning (regarding arbitration).”

That’s because the band’s moose hunt would begin in about three weeks, and assembling the arbitration panel may take a couple weeks, meaning timing is of the essence, he said. The state picks an arbitrator, as would the Grand Portage band. Those two would pick the third member of the panel.

Landwehr said he thinks the matter is pretty straight-forward. He said earlier this year the department decided to forego the state’s moose hunt for the coming season. The 1854 Tribal Authority bands (Grand Portage and Bois Forte) and the Fond du Lac (1837 Treaty) were notified at that time.

Under the terms of a memorandum of understanding, Landwehr said, if the state doesn’t have a moose hunt, the 1854 bands won’t, either. The Fond du Lac Band isn’t part of that agreement. Following the meeting between DNR officials, a member of the state Attorney General’s office, and tribal and 1854 officials, Grand Portage Band chair Norman Deschampe hadn’t indicated a moose hunt wouldn’t occur.

“We think it’s a pretty cut-and-dried interpretation,” Landwehr said.

About a month ago, against state objections, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa announced it would pursue a kill of up to 25 bull moose this fall.

The combined tribal moose harvest by Grand Portage and Bois Forte members for the past five years has been less than 20 animals. Last year, the harvest of 16 included 11 bulls and five cows. State-licensed hunters last fall killed 46 animals, all bulls. And Fond du Lac members in 2012 killed 20 moose, again, all bulls.

According to a 2004 document on the 1854 Authority website, “Northeastern Minnesota Moose Management – A Case Study in Cooperation,” it was in 1995 that the Fond du Lac and 1854 bands became involved in moose management with state DNR officials. And in 1997, band members began participating in the northeast moose survey and were included in setting seasons for state moose hunters.

The document indicates the Fond du Lac band pulled out of a moose-harvest agreement between the state and the bands in 1989.

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