Grand Portage nixes off-res moose hunt plans

St. Paul — The Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has pulled the plug on plans for a moose hunt in the 1854 treaty area of northeastern Minnesota.

The band announced in August it would hold a hunt next month and allow members to kill up to 21 bull moose on ceded lands. The DNR, which earlier this year cancelled the hunt for state hunters, objected and began an arbitration process in an attempt to force the band to abandon its plans.

The band last week said it was cancelling its 2013 hunt in the ceded territory.

“We’re very pleased with that, and appreciate they reconsidered their decision to hold a hunt,” said Dave Schad, DNR deputy commissioner.

Of the three bands in the northeastern part of the state, just the Fond du Lac Band will go ahead with plans for a moose season.

While the DNR asked Fond du Lac to reconsider its decision – the band plans to allow a harvest of up to 25 bulls – the agency doesn’t have the same leverage it does with Bois Forte and Grand Portage bands.

That’s because the state has an agreement with the two bands whereby it makes annual payments (more than $2.6 million to each band last year) in exchange for some of their off-reservation treaty rights. The Fond du Lac Band in 1988 signed the same agreement, but pulled out a year later.

Under the court arrangement, the two bands essentially agreed “for big-game seasons, to have the same seasons as the state does,” Schad said. The DNR cancelled this year’s season after a population survey earlier this year showed a 35-percent decline in the moose population in the northeast.

Officials say hunting isn’t the cause of the decline, but also that it’s one form of mortality that can be controlled.

“We have said the population is declining, and that we don’t know the reason for it,” Schad said. “It’s a small population and we think it’s prudent and the right thing to do to control any kind of mortality that we can control, and that’s primarily hunting.”

Though Grand Portage isn’t challenging the agency this time around, neither does it necessarily agree with the DNR’s actions.

In a letter to DNR last week, Grand Portage Chairman Norman Deschampe said the bands expect in the future to have “more meaningful input” into the decisions the DNR makes.

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