Conflicts evident at Fisheries Advisory Committee meeting, discussion with tribes productive
Brainerd Dispatch’s Zach Kayser reported on tensions between Committee members and DNR staff evident at the June 6 Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee meeting.
One of the biggest issues was the request of committee members that there would not be another economically devastating closure of the walleye season. Bill Eno of Twin Pines thought “no closure” should hold even if state anglers surpassed the harvest limits negotiated with the tribes.
The DNR maintains that their data indicates a drastic decline in the vitality of the walleye population, with a lack of walleye of spawning age. Tina Chapman of Chapman's Mille Lacs Resort & Guide Service questioned that premise. Disagreement about the state of the fishery remained unresolved.
Another issue was over the Committee also considering social and economic impact of the walleye crisis or just focusing on the walleye population issue alone. If the committee focuses just on the walleye, then it's merely a "partial" tackling of the program that overlooks the social and economic consequences, according to Eno.
A tense moment came when committee member Crow Wing County Commissioner Paul Koering expressed concern that the DNR moderator was steering the conversation too much. DNR facilitator Katie Clower quickly apologized and the discussion returned to the agenda. Jamie Edwards of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe also expressed hope for a "less divisive approach" going forward.
Meet the tribes
Kayser described the face-to-face interaction with biologists from Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission as a breakthrough for the committee. This helped offset months of Committee members criticizing the tribal approach to fishing on Mille Lacs walleye.
Committee members learned just how GLIFWC regulates fishing by tribal members. GLIFWC is a consortium between tribal governments that manages resources off-reservation lands on which the tribes have gathering rights. The commission does not have the authority to dictate what the tribes themselves do. Each tribe's DNR-style agency manages reservation resources independently.
Also productive was learning that monitoring is primarily a tribal responsibility. A tribal warden and creel data team is present at all times during tribal fishing activity and every fish harvested is counted. Tribal counts are themselves sometimes subject to double-checks from observers sent by the DNR.
Can walleye ‘hooking mortality’ be reliably tabulated?
Joe Fellegy, in his June 3 Outdoor News commentary, challenges the importance of “hooking mortality” in the DNR’s “co-management” of Mille Lacs.
He agrees that hooking mortality plays a role in walleye sport fisheries. Modern angling trends encourage more release and more interest in mortality and survival of released fish.
Fellegy covered a lot of research that has been done on hooking mortality. Then he adds that mortality is almost never a player in lake management decisions impacting local fishing-related economies.
The “giant exception” of course is Mille Lacs. Hooking mortality is a huge issue at Mille Lacs because it’s factored into already stringent walleye quotas set by state and tribal co-managers.
Last summer, “guesstimated” hooking-mortality pounds pushed anglers over the state’s super-low quota and closed walleye fishing for four months. This year a low quota and hot walleye bite could bring a shutdown—even with catch and release only and foregoing the lake’s popular night-fishing tradition.
Fellegy questions why a shutdown would even be considered, when there is no allowed harvest and an all-time-low fishing effort. Especially when it would be based on “fuzzy hooking-mortality guesstimates.”
Fellegy blames a “flawed Mille Lacs-unique state-tribal co-management system” for such a convoluted arrangement that was “never envisioned by the 1837 treaty.”
Study dodges angling realities
Fellegy reports that the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee (MLFAC) never got much of an answer to the question of how hooking mortality was brought into Mille Lacs management. Skeptical anglers and some MLFAC members further questioned whether hooking mortality can be reliably quantified for the way it’s being used in managing Mille Lacs.
DNR’s response is another study. It will be two years of collecting details on 1,500 walleyes per year to “refine” the hooking mortality model. The DNR also greatly expanded its list of creel survey topics, spreading response data over a large number of categories.
Bottom line, Fellegy believes certain MLFAC members and others are “right-on in demanding that there be no walleye-fishing shutdown based on fuzzy and unbelievable guesstimated mortality pounds.”
Capitol Rally to raise awareness about Mille Lacs issues stays positive
May 5, 2016
Rob Drieslein commented on a rally in front of the state Capitol over Mille Lacs issues last Saturday. The Hunting and Angling Club held the event to denounce the catch-and-release fishing regs for Lake Mille Lace, as well as raise awareness about commercial gill netting that could come to the 1855 Ceded Territory.
Drieslei's follow up on the rally included an interview with Douglas Meyenburg, president of Proper Economic Resource Management. In making a connection to the rally, he noted that PERM has raised money for the landowner litigants in the 1837 Treaty case and remained active in monitoring and publicizing tribal natural resources treaty rights claims.
Yes, Meyenburg would've liked to have seen more people attend the rally. But Meyenburg admitted that "some people are so used to mediocrity and mismanagement of Mille Lace that they throw their hands up because they feel like there's nothing they can do." On the other hand, 500 people turned up at an April 29 Sportsmen to Save Minnesota fundraiser for PERM in Foley. Also, Meyenbur's comments on where he’ll open for fishing May 14 put an upbeat spin on circumstances for the area.
"I'm opening on Mille Lace because I just enjoy the lake--the structure, the resorts, the restaurants," he said. "Part of it is supporting the people up there, but Mille Lacs always has been the perfect 'up north' lake for me. It's still the place to be." A retired heavy equipment operator for the city of Coon Rapids, 67-year-old Meyenburg served in the Navy as a young man, but otherwise has resided in East Bethel most of his life. Mille Lacs is 75 minutes from his home and he's fished there for decades. About 10 years ago he became PERM president because "the lake has been managed for political reasons for too long, and that's why I want to stay in this fight." He'll fish the walleye on opener, but he also loves Mille Lacs for its fine bass, pike, and muskie fishing. I suspect the people in Meyenburg's fishing party will have a good time on May 14.
Curran Lake Update
April 13, 2016
After about 6 hrs of mediation yesterday with the DNR, reps from the Attorney General office, and landowners, the DNR has agreed to install and maintain a weir (dam) at the lake's outlet, which had been dredged to the point of draining the whole lake.
The landowners were given an award which they called a slap in the face, but they didn't want to pursue a costly lawsuit. The dam will be installed by 9-30-16 and will allow Curran Lake to slowly recover it's historical high water mark and, hopefully, return to the fishing and duck hunting destination it once was.
Doug Meyenburg, President
Steve Johnson Report
Misinformation on Mille Lacs Challenged
April 11, 2016
The amount of MISINFORMATION out there about Mille lacs is AMAZING. I will start some educational posts, some that will include my opinion (of course) and some clear facts as well.
Here is #1 - Mille lacs is NOT void of walleyes. Best guesstimates (DNR) would put the total poundage of mature and young walleyes around 2 million pounds. I and others believe this estimate is low due to sampling errors.
Average annual mortality is around 10% for walleyes. The harvest this year is 40k pounds total. That is 2%. I would say that is very conservative.
Any questions or topics any of you would like me to cover feel free to ask on this post or message me. (I will delete and ban TROLLS as they serve no purpose and should remain under their bridge of anonymity).
Pushback on Mille Lacs live bait ban
April 3, 2016
Resorters are voicing “unrest” over DNR’s live bait ban for Mille Lacs according to a Star Tribune story today. And they should.
It’s bad enough that walleye fishing on Mille Lacs under DNR ”co-management” has declined to catch and release only and no live bait. So non-tribal walleye “safe allowable harvest” this year is now zero.
Actually it’s less than zero, because hooking mortality counts against the zero harvest, putting walleye anglers into negative territory. Once hooking mortality reaches a “negative” harvest of 28,600 pounds, it’s shutdown for walleye fishing on Mille Lacs.
It’s much like the night fishing ban that was put in place to address the walleye problem. DNR’s latest scattershot no-live-bait-solution also manages to gummy things up for all other angling on Mille Lacs.
Even worse, no-live-bait ”would wipe out $2 million a year in local sales of live bait and related fishing tackle” according to Steve Johnson, Advisory Committee member.
Some Committee members are also pushing back for another reason. They never had a chance to weigh in on the possibility of a no-live-bait solution!
The DNR must have been listening at the meeting where they were ripped by the Committee’s own biostatistics expert, for basing their “hooking mortality” formula on outdated assumptions. They learned that artificial bait is used more these days than when their hooking mortality formula was first designed. And that mortality is reduced with artificial bait. But the DNR did not bring up the possibility of a catch-and-release season coupled with only artificial bait. The "Advisory" Committee never had a chance to discuss it.
Doug Meyenburg, President
Chippewa talks on Mille Lacs should be public
See also comment to this post
March 25, 2016
Dennis Anderson came out with a few overlooked facts about the 1837 treaty harvest arrangement under a 1999 Supreme Court ruling. He makes a case for Mille Lacs fishery co-management discussions being public. He thinks it’s the only way to get past a state divided by 16 years of closed negotiations.
It started with a 1990 Mille Lacs Chippewa lawsuit against the state of Minnesota over harvest rights in the 1837 Treaty’s ceded territory. Centerpiece of the lawsuit was Mille Lacs, the state's premiere walleye angling destination. Also at stake was Mille Lac's multimillion-dollar tourism economy.
A proposed settlement would have given the band $8.6 million, 7,500 acres of land and exclusive fishing rights on 4.5 percent of the lake. Plus a harvest of 24,000 pounds of walleye annually.
The Minnesota Legislature turned it down, reviving the lawsuit that was decided in the Chippewa's favor 5-4 by the Supreme Court in 1999.
Anderson's key overlooked fact is that while the rejected proposed settlement might look good compared to the present situation, it only included the Mille Lacs band. If the legislature had accepted it, they would have had to negotiate similar agreements with seven more tribes, who were parties to the 1837 Treaty.
That was unlikely given the first proposal's rejection.
Today the DNR is forced to come up with ever more drastic quota schemes—the latest being no walleyes kept and no live bait—to accommodate treaty harvest rights.
Anderson figures the DNR and tribes have found ways to work together. But private negotiations, behind-the scenes stance of the tribes, and current situation with Mille Lacs fishery and economy, all combine to leave Minnesota "a state divided on Lake Mille Lacs."
Anderson doesn't see that changing until co-management occurs in public "for all to see."
Key facts missing
Dennis Anderson’s article is good. However, some key facts are missing.
The 4.5 percent of the lake was an exclusive tribal fishing zone that the state would have to patrol to keep non-tribal anglers out! But tribal harvest could be on all contiguous waters, allowing gillnets throughout the lake.
Many acres of land that were included in the deal had homes and businesses on them, which would require Minnesota to get clear title on all of them before any land transfer.
The Chippewa, including the Mille Lacs Band, accepted payments from the Indian Claims Commission in 1965 and 1973 to settle these claims with the Federal government once and forever!
The US Supreme Court ordered "come to an agreement" not MN taking orders from tribe.
Doug Meyenburg, President PERM
Steve Johnson Report
The Half Truth You Hear
March 22, 2016
When the media or the DNR talks about a "low" population of walleyes in Mille lacs, they do not include the estimated 900,000 walleyes of the 2013 year class, weighing in at over 600,000 lbs.
Why you ask? Because they don't get applied to the BIOMASS TOTAL until they reach 14" or reach sexual maturity.But, and this is a big but,all sizes get applied to HOOKING MORTALITY. Welcome to the whacky world of Treaty Fisheries Management! Chew on that one for awhile.
Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside on Mille Lacs.
DNR regs for Mille Lacs walleye draw fire
'Designed to keep walleye fishing open,' but mid-season closure MORE likely this year!
March 22, 2016
See COMMENTS below
This summer it's catch and release only for walleye anglers, who also must use artificial bait. And a season-long closure of night fishing is back for all but Muskie anglers.
The DNR's new regs for walleye fishing on Mille Lacs were said to be "designed to protect the fish needed to rebuild Mille Lacs Lake's walleye population."
Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief said, "Not allowing harvest is a difficult decision but it provides our best option."
This year's safe walleye harvest quota remains at 40,000 pounds, (28,600 for state anglers, and 11,400 for tribal anglers.) Yet even with zero harvest, hooking mortality is still a factor.
The DNR expects many more smaller-sized fish to be caught, especially the 2013-year class, given the unusually hot bite this past winter.
Unfortunately, "The possibility of closing Mille Lacs to walleye fishing is greater this year than it was last," according to Pereira. "Even with our catch-and-release approach, the risk remains considerable."
The DNR is being particularly cautious with the 2013-year class, which they are counting on to rebuild Mille Lacs' walleye population.
Is this how to manage a lake?
These new regs are driven by "co-management" politics as much as by lake biology concerns. They threaten the livelihood of many businesses on and around Mille Lacs. It's one more reason why we must push for having the DNR go through the legislature when making such major changes.
Charges have been filed in Crow Wing County against four tribal members given citations for gill netting and wild rice violations on and near Gull Lake. Remember, the problems with Mille Lacs started with an illegal tribal harvest and citation in the Mille Lacs area.
Violators and their supporters in Crow Wing County have been very open about creating a lawsuit to "affirm" harvest--and now property--rights for the entire territory ceded by the 1855 Treaty. This includes the Brainerd Lakes, Winne, Leech lake area and a wide band of Northern Minnesota. Can you imagine enduring what we have experienced as "co-management" over so many lakes and so much territory?
Visit perm.org to sign up for email alerts, get involved now to prevent many major Minnesota Lakes being "managed" into catch and release!
Forward this to like minded sportsmen and women!
Doug Meyenburg, President PERM
2016 Mile Lacs Regulations
--Catch and release only on Walleye.
--No live bait allowed, Artificial baits only, yes GULP is artificial
--4 fish limit 17-21 protected slot, 1 allowed over 21" in bag of 4
--5 fish limit 30"-40" protected slot, 1 over 40" in bag of 5.
The walleye fishing this summer will be "off the hook."
The 2013 year class is now ranked second only to the one in the early 2000's. These fish will be starving if we don't have a HUGE perch hatch this spring. There are also too many big fish in the system and they may be hungry as well.
The Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee will now be addressing the CAUSE and EFFECT of the management system in place on Mille Lacs. The DNR has told us that everything is on the table. Well, there will be a big pile on the table. My intention is to tear into Treaty Fisheries Management and make it stand on its own as a successful management style. If it doesn't, and I know it won't, we can advise to explore a new approach to Mille Lacs. This should include a compromise approach with the Bands, something the DNR has NEVER even mentioned.
Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside on Mille Lacs
Lawmaker will seek to override Mille Lacs walleye rules
March 22, 2016
Sen. Dave Brown, R-Becker, responding to the DNR's new regs for Mille Lacs, says they are “doing everything they possibly can to destroy the economy” around the lake.
Brown says he’ll introduce a bill to override the state’s decision to allow no walleyes to be kept this year on Lake Mille Lacs. Instead, he wants a two-fish limit and live bait.
Leech Lake tribe members in Treaty rights lawsuit over killing deer out of season, on private land
Two Leech Lake tribe members facing illegal deer hunting charges asked the Beltrami County District Court to dismiss their case last Friday. They claimed the state has no jurisdiction to charge them over hunting violations.
Tribal members Tony Lee Morris and Randy Gregg Finn, both of Cass Lake, shot a doe they encountered on a rural gravel road a few miles outside the Leech Lake Reservation. They shot the deer from their car, and then followed the wounded deer onto private land, where they gutted it and dragged it back to the road.
The men were confronted by the landowner, after which they left the deer and fled. DNR officers later located Morris and Finn, and the two men confessed to killing a deer out of season, on private land.
Tribal attorney Frank Bibeau argued that the case should be dismissed, claiming an 1855 Treaty gave tribal members the right to hunt, fish and gather across most of northern Minnesota.
The case is similar to one in which four Ojibwe tribe members were charged almost a year ago with illegally gathering wild rice without a permit and setting gill nets. While that case is considered to be the first step in a court battle to clarify tribal land use rights, Morris and Finn's case, would not be part of it, according to Bibeau.
Expect more incidents of illegal harvest as a narrative is built to show that harvest--and soon to appear "land use" rights--have existed all along.
Hooking mortality a sore point among Mille Lacs resorters
Hooking mortality was a hot topic at the DNR Mille Lacs Advisory Committee meeting in Garrison last week. The Star Tribune's Tony Kennedy showed how DNR estimates of hooking mortality for walleyes is becoming a major source of frustration among resorters and related businesses on the lake. 'Hooking mortality' roils Mille Lacs policy.
Resort owners are adamant about avoiding another shutdown, and they are speaking up at the Advisory Committee meetings. They have questions about the model and data used to generate DNR estimations of hooking mortality.
The DNR believes current methods are "basically sound," according to Tom Jones, the DNR's regional treaty coordinator. But concerns about inaccuracy have led to a review and a new computer model, "but we haven’t vetted it yet," he said.
Recent experience shows why hooking mortality estimates has become a critical issue. Kennedy reported that in 2015, 64 percent of the season's walleye allocation was reached via hooking mortality. In 2014, the breakdown of walleye deaths was 54 percent from hooking mortality.
A major driver for the imbalance is the lake's stringent bag limit (only one 18- to 20-inch walleye per angler in possession). Anglers' endless catch and release to get a keeper only drives up hooking mortality. And the potential for mid-season shutdown.
The hot bite expected from the abundant 2013-year class walleyes (none are keepers) makes the hooking mortality that much worse.
Now, a growing contingent of Mille Lacs stakeholders is pressing for harvesting some of those fish. Committee member Steve Johnson of Johnson’s Portside said, "If people could keep one of those, they wouldn't have to catch and release 100 or 150 of them."
Committee members also heard from Karen McQuoid, a resort owner and a biostatistician from the medical device industry challenged the DNR’s models for making estimates. She explained how models were based on an assumption that all walleye were caught the same way. They ignored different mortality outcomes between live and artificial bait.
A number of alternatives were also aired at that Committee meeting.
The next Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee will be 5:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24, at Izatys Golf Resort, 40005 85th Ave. in Onamia.
Why the DNR stays stuck managing Mille Lacs
Steve Johnson (Johnson’s Portside) sounds off after five DNR Advisory meetings of "all talk and no action." He says the Committee is blocked from doing what it was created for in the first place: advising the DNR on how to solve identified issues. But then he says it's not entirely the DNR's fault.
In the first of a two-part MilleLacsMessenger.com interview, Steve comes up with a plain explanation of why the DNR's management has been so ineffective. Short answer: the DNR starts and ends with protocols created under Treaty Fisheries Management.
The DNR is mandated by the protocols to manage the lake in order to meet the quotas. That means their well paid/educated experts don't get a chance to biologically manage the lake.
The DNR doesn't have the tools to deal with protocols overriding biology. So they are left with using fishing pressure and mortality rate to meet specific quotas based on estimates that have a 20 to 30 percent margin of error.
Steve believes the only change that will have an impact is to change the protocols. That means going back to analyze, and possibly re-negotiate, the protocols. It's not about re-negotiating the treaty, it's about reexamining the protocols. But "That is where it has to start."
(Note: All Messenger attempts to reach the DNR for comment were unsuccessful.)
See Steve Johnson's interview "Seeking change in lake management" below.
Seeking change in lake management
MilleLacsMessenger.com, Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Part one of a series: Frustrated fish advisory council member Steve Johnson of Johnson’s Portside sounds off
It is not difficult to find locals of the Mille Lacs Lake area who are outspoken in their views on the management of the lake. Many spoke loud and clear last summer when the Department of Natural Resources shut down Mille Lacs walleye fishing mid-summer. As a result, Governor Mark Dayton issued a directive to the DNR to find a solution to help the lake and the businesses that rely on the lake for sustenance.
Crises and Mission Creep
After years of co-management, it’s not news that the situation at Mille Lacs is more and more often described as a “crisis.” That’s especially true for the angling and hospitality industry that grew up around a once-premiere walleye-angling destination.
So it’s a little off-putting to hear about the DNR’s proposed $3.5 million facility on Mille Lacs. It’s said to come with educational programming, outreach staff, and community meeting rooms. And a fishing museum? That seems too much like leveraging a crisis for bureaucratic gain.
Given Mille Lacs' size and complexities, the DNR’s recent decision to open up a storefront office in Garrison, putting them right at Mille Lacs, is a good idea. Why not hold off on the Taj Mahal until they can bring walleye quotas back to what it was in the early days of co-management?
See Tim Spielman’s article on the “new” Mille Lacs walleye quotas for 2016 below.
Mille Lacs 2016 Walleye Quota Same as 2015
Tim Spielman, Associate Editor at Outdoor News, Friday reported on a pre-DNR announcement of the 2016 walleye quota by Dylan Jennings, GLIFWC public information director. As expected by many, total allocation would again be 40,000 pounds, with the same 28,600 pounds for state anglers and 11,400 pounds for the tribes.
The bands haven't announced their plans for 2016, although Mille Lacs band announced last July they planned not to net walleyes on the lake this year.
The DNR is looking at options for this year’s fishing regulations. They likely know that the number one concern of Mille Lacs resorters and businesses is the DNR managing the lake so that angling doesn’t get shut down mid-season.
Resorters Spielman spoke with prior to the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Group's Thursday, January 28 meeting said they wanted the Committee to look at all options. They especially wanted to know more about how options would be shaped by the DNR’s use of a “hooking mortality” measure. Interest grew after the DNR assessed 12,500 pounds of hooking mortality in just two weeks last July. That led to a first-ever mid-season shutdown of walleye angling.
Hooking mortality and data derived from creel surveys were discussed by the Committee on Thursday. DNR representatives faced a great deal of skepticism over their assessment of fishing pressure as well as their hooking mortality and creel estimates for those weeks in July.
Spielman also shared Rep. Tom Hackbarth’s take on Mille Lacs and DNR plans. He is one non-committee member who is allowed to sit in on the “closed” state-tribal technical meetings. Hackbarth mentioned discussions about walleye stocking, the processes involved, and a decision to maintain the unique genetic strain of Mille Lacs walleye. He described the last meeting as having “no surprises.”
However, Spielman noted that Hackbarth did take exception to a proposed $3.5 million DNR facility at Mille Lacs. The facility would be a resource for public information and research. Attendees at Thursday’s Advisory Committee also learned that the Fishing Museum now in Little Falls has agreed to move operations to DNR’s proposed facility. Hackbarth did not think bonding for the facility would be funded by the legislature. Or that it should be funded.
Steve Johnson Report
Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR's new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee's meetings as they happen.
January 27 Mille Lacs Update
By now many have heard that the bite on Mille lacs is good. We have seen some nice fattys in the mid 20's. Also there are some slot fish being caught. But the story is the sheer numbers being caught in the 11" to 16" range. It seems the 2013's are everywhere and in huge numbers, (handle them carefully) I believe we have 2012's and 14's mixed in but the 2013 is boss. They are aggressive and I believe they may be getting short on forage. The pigs this year have bellies on them like we haven't seen in awhile. There is an abundance of small perch and tullibees that are keeping them fed. Some Jumbo perch ( 12"+) have been caught and seem to be showing up in a few places. Lots of perch to be caught and sorted of course, you can get some nice 10" for a great meal.
Its been one of the best winter bites I have seen and most of it came in the last 3 weeks of late ice.
I believe there is a very very large 2013 year class and and its eating machine is just kicking in. Hopefully they graduate to a new forage like the small perch, but then what? The DNR has decided to protect all of them so that eating machine will only shrink because of starvation and mortality formulas.
She is cycling as usual and putting out a huge year class and we should use the only management tool we have, harvesting some. But my guess is the DNR will gift us with a 1 fish summer and few extra pounds with a catch and release benchmark. They will own the decision to protect the eating machine and the consequences that become of it, oh wait, thats our job!
MLFAC meeting tonight, I will update. Steve
Treaty management spawns false Mille Lacs collapse message
Joe Fellegy, writing about the DNR's annual Roundtable in Outdoor News’ January 22 issue, saw that Mille Lacs was "center stage" on the Agenda. It showed how the ongoing (and never-ending) portrayal of Mille Lacs is a huge issue, which he calls the "controversy capitol of Minnesota fishing."
Fellegy pointed out the lake’s many fish-related records as the “ultimate classic natural walleye lake.” But he called its latest record “the most-published negative vocabulary ever associated with a Minnesota sport fishery.” This he saw coming from the “extremist workings of treaty fisheries management.”
Today the large diverse Mille Lacs walleye-fishing community is “terrorized and victimized by the biggest PR disaster” ever. He credits “treaty fisheries management, and the callous indifference of state and tribal government personnel” with creating an endless negative media cycle. Last summer’s unneeded walleye fishing closure brought a “tidal wave of collapse and crisis stories.”
The worst part of all this is the media’s “false narrative” that the Mille Lacs walleyes are “about gone.” Until three years ago walleye fishing was pretty good. Since then, “the political treaty-management quotas were chopped by over 90 percent,” using much tighter limits. Fishing traffic was estimated to have fallen about the same percentage. “But,” Fellegy points out; the walleye population “is not down 90 percent and remains fishable.” Fellegy describes this with a glossary of negative PR terms and misleading media stories.
Fishing-related businesses are used to dealing with Mother Nature, and dealing with an ever-evolving sport-fishing economy. So Fellegy thinks it’s “wrong” to hit them with the huge losses that come from “extremist” treaty management and its “intolerable PR crap storms.”
Fellegy also faults journalists and politicos who so often play the race card, which derails discussion and allows “high-impact players to escape accountability for their policies and actions.”
The lack of transparency of the closed-door Technical Committee involving the DNR, bands, and GLIFWC is especially irksome for Fellegy. He gives examples of a growing awareness in the media about how secret meetings fuel distrust and deprive the public of knowing how fish management decisions are made. He challenges the DNR about being so timid in pursuing transparency.
Fellegy then lists results of treaty fisheries management at Mille Lacs as a litany of negative outcomes for everyone involved.
Read more (as only Joe can tell it)
Mille Lacs advisory committee meets Jan. 28
Support the New Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee by showing up The next meeting of the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee will take place 5:30-9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, at McQuoid’s Inn Event Center, 1325 MN-47, in Isle.
Melissa Treml, DNR Fisheries Research manager, and representatives from the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission will provide a report from the recent Fisheries Technical Committee meeting. Tom Jones, DNR regional fisheries treaty coordinator, will provide a presentation on creel surveys and hooking mortality. Members of the public are welcome to attend and observe.
The 17-member advisory committee of citizens has been active since October 2015.
Steve Johnson Report
Support the New Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee by showing up
Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR's new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee's meetings as they happen.
January 19 Mille lacs DATA vs. TRUTH and MAGIC Update #5
Those of you who fished Mille lacs this summer know that it was a fantastic Walleye bite. Those of you who avoided Mille lacs missed out on some great fishing and catching. DNR collected data and their conclusion has been that Mille lacs has a depleted walleye population. This would be a complete opposite of the actual activity of walleyes that went on this summer.
Why did walleyes bite in Mille lacs this summer? Two reasons this may happen.
1. There is a forage shortage (not enough to eat).
2. There is a good population of walleyes.
Now if you ask the DNR, they will tell you that there is no forage crash (eliminates reason number 1) and the population of walleye is low (opposite of number 2). So the only reason we had such a great bite is simple. IT'S MAGIC.
With 35% of normal pressure on Mille lacs this past summer, those few anglers released 200,000 pounds of walleyes. Harvested only about 13,000 pounds because of the tight slot and limit of 1. (Add another 15,000 pounds for hooking mortality)
Skip ahead to the present winter bite and we are right back at the MAGICAL MIRACLE OF MILLE LACS. Reports started right away this winter, great walleye fishing, jumbo perch showing up, and the Northerns have been active too. Walleye of all sizes are being reported, the largest number being the 2013 year class 13"-15" and the 2014 class 9"-12".There are walleyes from 15"-20" being caught and the big walleyes are plentiful coming though the ice.
Look at social media (Facebook etc.) or call any resort on the lake and you will get the same story, fishing is great on Mille lacs. But, how can this be?
Mille lacs is managed with a system relying on accurate data, the DNR considers the 20-30% margin of error in the data going in as acceptable. Huh? To determine the success or the "harvest" they again use an inaccurate (creel survey) type of data collection. This also has a high MOE. So if they are inaccurate on the input (low) and again inaccurate on the outcome (high) we have been double damned.
In my opinion, Mille Lacs has and always will be a Mother nature controlled cyclical monster that cannot be manipulated in a positive way by anyones actions.
DNR CLAIMS AND EXCUSES
1. Clear water, this was blamed on zebra mussels starting in 2008, now because zebra mussels have DECLINED 25%, they say the clear water started in the early 90's because of the federal clean water act. (Nice switch) Wind, rain, algae blooms, all effect the clarity on a daily basis.
2. Zooplankton is too low in the lake (spiny water fleas and zebra mussels are the cause) to support the smallest of baitfish etc. Yet we have walleye year classes coming in and we have baitfish that is not lacking and everything seems to fat and healthy.
3. Netting in the spawning areas is not now nor ever has been a problem. Their DATA shows that walleye production is VERY good. This will need to be proven to the anglers on Mille lacs and in Minnesota (who find it culturally offensive) in some other way, maybe another STUDY. They like studies.
So here we are heading into the black hole of the unknown, waiting for the DNR to meet with the Biologists, and then determine the fate of not only Mille lacs lake but the entire community surrounding it.
I will not drink the magic kool aid they keep handing out. I will continue to look at the actual activity that happens on Mille Lacs every day. I believe it is more accurate than having a few biologists spending a few hours on the lake and shoving their data into the laptop waiting for the winning lottery ticket to come out of it.
Rant continued later.
Citizens can apply to serve on Lake Vermilion Fisheries Input Group
Citizens interested in discussing Lake Vermilion fish and habitat can nominate themselves as volunteers on a newly forming Lake Vermilion Fisheries Input Group.
Applications must be completed by Sunday, Jan. 31, and are available on the Lake Vermilion page.
Read more ...
Steve Johnson Report
Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR's new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee's meetings as they happen.
January 11 Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee Update #4
Good news first: The DNR has no clue what is going on right now on the early ice bite, so since the fishing is fantastic on all species we will keep this to ourselves.
Ice conditions improve daily and by this weekend there will be resorts pulling houses in some areas. So far we have had many happy anglers enjoying the bite.
YOU CAN'T, WE CAN'T, WE WON'T, WE HAVEN'T, is how most of the answers start from the DNR when we ever bring up any subject matter outside of the TFM box.
When asked if "ANYONE" has ever offered to sit down with the band and talk COMPROMISE? The simple answer WE HAVEN'T.
Can we attend the FTC meetings? Answer WE CAN'T.
Not a KOOL AIDE drinker here, everything, all decisions about management is based on data with a margin of error of 20-30% depending on who answers the question. Most of the anglers and resorters simply shake their heads when told how few fish are in the lake (disagree) and that there is no forage crash (agree), yet we all saw the how the catching was this summer and how the winter is following the same route. HMMMMM? Fat healthy Walleyes in all sizes were the norm this summer.
3 Main areas of concern for me under TFM
1. 30% data MOA "margin of error" on population of walleyes.
2. TFM is assumed accurate using this input and success and progress is based on #3
3. CREEL survey results that also have a 30% MOA.
So if you are low on the population "input" and high on the creel survey "outcome" you are double damning us. Welcome to Mille Lacs management.
We listened to the legalese of the court agreements. We listened as they told us they have never made an effort to change the system, only to blindly follow the TFM rules and never question.
NETTING: "Spring gillnets are not an issue as we have good production every year" This argument will never go away until proven one way or the other. I suggested a Grid/Area study to actually look at the eggs themselves inside a netting area and inside an "off limits" netting area. It has been done before in other lakes successfully so why not here.
As I write this, the DNR is ready for the FTC meeting, they know exactly what they will be putting on the table and yet they will not tip their hand to us. (More sleepless nights).
We were asked about next summer regulation goals "given no clue as to any numbers" most of us said to avoid closure of the lake, this opens the door to blame the group if they decide to go to C&R at some point. One person on the MLFAC was ok with closing the lake. It was the same one that said we should not have opened the winter season. I will let you find out who this is.
I asked why the DNR does not involve the public on data collection through a website or something? Well Ill be darned, its already in use by Bass groups and the U of M has its own version, yet our DNR didn't even know it. They stated that they gave logbooks out 1year to launches and it didn't work so they quit. BRILLIANT!
WE, not the DNR, at some point will attempt to open a line of communication with the BAND and at the very least talk. The higher powers have their model gods to follow blindly as they always have.
More later. Please share and “like” this post to get the word out
Four tribal members finally charged with violations in treaty rights protest
Authorities have charged four American Indians with fishing and wild rice harvest violations during a protest last summer. Protesters planned to set up a court test of rights they claim exist in an 1855 treaty
The four were named in complaints filed Dec. 30 in Crow Wing County District Court. They have their first court appearances scheduled for Feb. 1 in Brainerd.
Their attorney Frank Bibeau, executive director of the 1855 Treaty Authority, said that the four, along with his group, are trying to force Minnesota to recognize expanded harvest rights in that treaty.
The state disagrees with the band’s claim that members have special off-reservation fishing, gathering and hunting rights on land ceded under an 1855 treaty.
Unlike the 1837 treaty, the 1855 treaty doesn't explicitly say anything about off-reservation harvest rights. But Bibeau's group contends the treaty, backed by case law and federal statutes, guarantees those rights anyway.
Read more …
The people’s fish and lack of transparency
Ron Schara recognized the anger and distrust of the sport-fishing public over the DNR-tribal co-management of walleyes in Lake Mille Lacs. He writes that if DNR and tribal fish managers hope to change that, more transparency in the co-management process is needed.
Media often bring up the word transparency when they have questions about the way government operates. Stringent open meeting laws apply to almost every gathering where decisions by government officials are made. It’s part of Minnesota’s reputation for "clean" and “open” government.
Yet, when Minnesota is dealing with walleyes on Mille Lacs, complete transparency is lacking. Ever since the courts ordered co-management of Mille Lacs' fish, DNR and tribal fish managers regularly hold closed meetings regarding the people's walleyes. Major newspapers, who so love transparency, are editorially silent about the secrecy.
The fish management meetings likely are on the up and up. But without transparency, the public is in the dark about how decisions are made. Today we know those Mille Lacs fish management plans were, at best, faulty, ill-advised, or biologically inept.
Without transparency, who knows how many tribal nets go into the lake, or how the walleyes are counted? Of if Wisconsin band netters follow the same rules.
Transparency is the best way to deal with accusations that tribal netting is bad. But DNR and tribal leaders insist on secret negotiations in meetings closed to the public. Recently the DNR said some members of the new advisory committee could sit in on these negotiations. A few weeks later, the DNR said tribal officials objected, after which the DNR rolled over and concurred. The secrecy continues; meetings remain closed. And once again, the media say nothing.
Meanwhile, the fishing public's distrust goes on. Sadly, it doesn't need to be this way.
Steve Johnson Report
Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR's new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee's meetings as they happen.
December 17 Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee Update - - Posted December 18
DNR presented the group with the fall assessment data for Mille lacs. The data collection practices that they have used for 40 yrs (slightly modified) is still used today to implement Treaty Fishery Management. A 20% margin of error is acceptable to the DNR (it was claimed 30% a few years ago, but 20% sounds better). Why is this important? If you apply that margin of error to some of the below average year classes, they will jump into or above average.
The 2013 year class ( now 13"-15") is very strong. The DNR has made the decision to protect this large year class at all costs. This has never been done before, to manipulate the rules to protect 1 yr class in my opinion is wrong. I made it very clear to the entire room that that decision was made and implemented solely by the DNR. They will own that move good or bad. In the past history of Mille lacs, it will produce a good to great yr class every 4-8yrs. We can call that time frame the "pause" because a big year class will eat EVERYTHING until well fed, then there will be room for another one. This cycle can be seen on almost all of the historic data. Point being that we used to harvest some of those walleyes to thin the EATING machine. Now that wont happen. I totally disagree with that decision.
I asked the DNR "what besides controlling angler harvest and pressure can you do to to fix your claimed issues?" Not one DNR employee could answer that question, in fact I saw numerous shoulders shrug and all of them looking to each other to answer.....no answer.
The next meeting will be addressing TFM on the legal side, it will be open to the public as always, we are expecting a large crowd, the public should be informed on how this came about and how it may be approached for modification or elimination.
I will let you chew on this and end with a trivia question.
How many millions of dollars has the State of Minnesota paid out in the last 30 years to numerous Tribes, in exchange for not exercising some of their harvest rights? Its a huge number and a compromise of this type should be explored with the Bands. As well as offering up my Walleye Replacement Program.
Give me your best guess.
Steve Johnson Report
Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR's new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee's meetings as they happen.
Mille Lacs Lake Doesn’t Need FIXING - - Posted October 31
The management practice need to be completely CHANGED.
Most of the data that I observed was “average”, nothing to be alarmed about in my opinion. Using Data that is not accurate (+/- 30%) and applying it to the Treaty Fisheries Management approach that requires accuracy falls into the definition of insanity.
The DNR can only manage anglers, they have no control on how the lake cycles, never have and never will. the history clearly shows an ecosystem that ebbs and flows, goes up and down, has good decades and bad years, Yet she fixes herself over and over. For instance the TULIBEE have made a miraculous recovery, there are 3 year classes that apparently knew the trick to get around “Global climate warming changeup” or whatever its called this month. How did that happen?
Many eyes are wide OPEN going into this new advisory group. This will not become an INSERT group as the last one became over the last 5 years.
The first meeting was simply to lay out the intended ground rules for the group, all of which in my opinion is simply a directive to keep order. The course the group takes will be dependent on information that is or is not provided by the DNR, but also what we hear from the general public and what the group itself puts on the agenda. EVERYTHING will be on the table this time. EVERYTHING!
DNR sets Mille Lacs winter walleye limit
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The Minnesota DNR announced today that anglers can keep one walleye between 18 and 20 inches, or one longer than 28 inches, during the season December 1 to February 28. Anglers can also keep five northern pike, with one longer than 30 inches. If the winter walleye harvest approaches or tops the 5,000 pound cap on walleye, the DNR will move to catch and release. Read more.
Steve Johnson Report
Steve Johnson, Johnson's Portside Bait & Liquor and member of the DNR's new Fisheries Advisory Committee has agreed to share his recaps of the committee's meetings as they happen and we present the rest of it here.
MLFAC meeting #2: Rebuilding the trust with the DNR. October 22
I won't say our second meeting was a waste of time, but for the most part it was just that.
#1. Deja Vu was felt once the DNR put the "BOX" of 3 choices of regulations on the power point screen. I saw this coming and had made up my mind to protest the voting process for the time being and force the DNR to make the choice and thus receive the GLORY from the Press. They in no way can say that the MLFAC made the recommendation. We clearly put the decision in their hands. Basically it was a 1 fish bag from either 18"-20" or 19"-21" both of which they claim will keep us under the 5000# cap for the winter. Who the Hell came up with this 5000# cap? We will never know.
#2. No one from the MLFAC was allowed to attend the DNR/TRIBAL technical meeting as they promised. We, "the old advisory group," have asked for this for 10 years and had smoke blown in our rears. Now the smoke is blowing again, something about COURT WORDING that does not allow it. ???????? Who is driving this boat of Management?
#3. The Northern pike reg was handled the same way, little to no info provided and looking for us to make a decision to keep the status quo or something else. We again chose to let the DNR take the credit for whatever regulation they come up with. More glory from the press for them.
#4. We did have some constructive conversation among the group and came up with a list of future topics. On this list is TFM, TREATY FISHERIES MANAGEMENT, the management system that we all live and die by on Mille Lacs. All of this mess I can directly blame the TFM system. It is impossible to come up with a topic on the lake that is not directly related to and affected by TFM, and rarely is it a positive outcome. We got it on the discussion board for a future meeting, to dissect it, evaluate it, enhance it, remove it entirely, those choices are all on the table for the group to recommend to the DNR. Now that I will be happy to get blamed for.
#5. We asked that the DNR to stop the negative "false 30-year low" press releases, we are well past any 30-year low, they can’t seem to tell the truth very often.
#6. We all agreed that the "closure" clause be removed and C&R used in its place. To have them hang a "closure" clause over our heads is RIDICULOUS during a season of zero mortality on walleyes.
#7. The meeting went late...who cares. They seemed more concerned about the timing than the subject matter.
New input group another ‘DNR Dog and Pony show’ as some have labeled it?
We hope not, but time will tell
We are wondering how much of the DNR’s newest plan for dealing with the Mille Lacs fishery has potential for restoring a premiere angling destination and local economy. And how much is just a dog and pony show. There’s some evidence both ways.
The DNR’s response to dealing with the walleye fishery shutdown, and outcry that followed, is detailed in its plan, Mille Lacs Lake Management: Minnesota DNR. In it, the DNR promises to begin “implementing concrete steps aimed at improving the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population, while building a closer working relationship with the Mille Lacs community.” Here are items we are looking at.
First up, a refurbished Fishery Input Group
The new advisory committee, formed "to oversee the lake," replaces the old Fisheries Input Group. Early reports are that nothing has changed beyond a few new members. "We'll put a lot of stock in what they recommend, but it's still an advisory group" according to DNR’s Commissioner Landwehr.
Landwehr said "he hopes the new group will improve the DNR's relations with the Mille Lacs community." We hope so too. In the past it looked a lot like providing cover for "co-management" of Mille Lacs.
It’s still all about members looking over options coming from the DNR. They cannot discuss, or even bring up, alternatives not brought in by the DNR. Then they get to put their fingerprints on one of them before the DNR announces it to the public.
This time though, it wasn’t quite business as usual. At its recent meeting, the Committee did not endorse a particular option. Instead, they agreed that this winter’s ice fishing limits be conservative. They also recommend catch and release-only rather than shutdown, if the quota is being reached. That generated kudos from some of the lake’s supporters.
New staff and new facility
The DNR’s plan includes building a research facility, hatchery, and outreach center right on the shores of Lake Mille Lacs. It will support a lot of research, including fish surveys, lake monitoring, harvest monitoring, and hatchery production.
The new fisheries facility is estimated to cost about $3.5 million, and will be submitted as part of next year's bonding bill. How much will this proposal actually cost? Once a bureaucracy expands, adding program, facilities, and staff, it never goes away. Maybe taxpayers going into debt for this will now better relate to the plight of Mille Lacs resorters, who are also going into debt.
Better communications, data sharing, and responsiveness to local needs sure sounds like the “customer service,” which the Governor says the DNR needs. But a larger concern than the cost is the emphasis on research and public relations, with no attention paid to problems with “co-management.”
The DNR has long opposed stocking walleye in Mille Lacs. Now they are responding to public pressure by saying it would start planning for something it doesn’t think will be necessary.
They propose a pilot stocking effort to design techniques, just in case the state ever needs to supplement the lake's natural spawning with outside help. They will go ahead if walleye population “keeps dropping.”
This is only planning and a pilot project. How long will it take for any real impact on Mille Lacs? The DNR has already run out the clock as far as the local Mille Lacs economy goes.
The DNR has long heard complaints about the lack of transparency in the Mille Lacs “co-management’s” setting of limits and quotas. In its Mille Lacs Lake Management plan, the DNR says it will also focus on “increasing the transparency of quota setting on Mille Lacs.” Almost immediately came word from DNR Fisheries head Don Pereira that “tribal band members didn't like the idea and were of the opinion outside observers would have a chilling effect on the discussion.” So that will be the end of it?
First order of business
We agree with the St Cloud Times Editorial Board’s position that “the state should strike a deal with Indian bands that stops them from netting walleye permanently on the lake.” They added, “The state should push hard--and even spend money--to get the bands to stop netting permanently.”
Steve Johnson Report
We agree with a Facebook post by Steve Johnson, Johnsons Portside, that gillnetting walleye on Mille Lacs during the spawn is an issue for many anglers. Continuing to allow this “only makes that crowd larger.” More specifically, Johnson states, “The DNR must do more to prove that [the gillnetting] has no negative effect on the lake. The only PROOF being presented by [the DNR] is that recruitment is good and stable, I think you need to take this further, as it is the only definitive answer ever given in the whole situation.”
President, Proper Economic Resource Management
White Earth Band LSOHC Land Purchase Request Resubmitted
Next Council meeting set for October 6
In 2013, the Fond du Lac tribe received a $2.8 million grant from the Outdoor Heritage fund. Although it took two years of wrangling between the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Committee and legislators, the funding did set an encouraging precedent for the White Earth band to follow.
Early this year, the LSOHC recommendation to the Legislature included a similar White Earth proposal for buying land to put into trust for preservation. This time Rep. Dennis McNamara's Environment & Natural Resources Policy & Finance Committee shot it down. They deleted the White Earth proposal and adding all the $2,188,000 to the "shallow lakes and wetlands" section's $2,130,000.
In August the White Earth band resubmitted its proposal, "Protecting Forest Wildlife Habitat in the Wild Rice River Watershed," for the same $2,188,000.
Its funding request was heard by the LSOHC September 2, and will again come before the Council October 6. Council Chair Bob Anderson, Rep. Denny McNamara, and Ron Schara voted against funding. Eight other members voted to fund the proposal, but only three supported the full amount.
Opposition includes concern over loss of PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) of $12,000. Others were those upset over the prohibition of wolf hunting on tribal lands. House Speaker Kurt Daudt in March, said the debate is about more than loss of property taxes. “Turning land over to an Indian nation, everybody knows that’s the controversial part of it.”
As expected, opposition has also been characterized as coming from “individuals who harbor deep-seated prejudice against American Indians.”
Representative Denny McNamara, R-Hastings in September suggested using the concept in the proposal, but stripping it from the control of tribal sovereignty. He could see it working under a DNR wildlife or aquatic management area.
No basis for FABRICATING new 1855 Treaty rights
Before getting caught up in tribal activists' demand for fabricating new 1855 Treaty rights, Minnesotans should consider the plain language of the 1855 Treaty. The treaty states that the Indians "do further fully and entirely relinquish and convey to the United States, any and all right, title, and interest, of whatsoever nature the same may be, which they may now have in, and to any other lands in the Territory of Minnesota or elsewhere."
Timeline Making the Case for NOT FABRICATING New 1855 Treaty Rights
1855 - Several Chippewa Bands including the Mille Lacs Band negotiate the treaty of 1855. In this treaty the Chippewa agree to relinquish "all right, title and interest in and to" all lands outside their reservations. This language included any special hunting and fishing privileges.
1858 - Minnesota enters the Union. The State begins to enact laws including fish and game regulations.
1896 - U.S Supreme Court rules in Ward v. Racehorse that when a State enters the Union, preexisting treaty rights are subject to state law.
1924 - All American Indians granted citizenship.
1838 - President Franklin Roosevelt affirms Taylor's 1850 Presidential Order in a letter to the Chippewa.
1946 - Congress creates a tribunal, the Indian Claims Commission (ICC), to hear and resolve all types of Indian claims, including treaty rights claims by Indians against the United States. The Indian Claims Commission Act (ICCA) was designed to correct any mistakes made by the U.S. in any treaties and agreements with the tribes. The ICCA is unusual in that Congress gave the Commission authority to also hear claims that were moral in nature. Therefore, tribes could bring cases claiming that the federal government had coerced them into signing treaties, or misrepresented agreements, or acted in other ways that could be seen as violating fair and honorable dealings that were not recognized by any existing laws. 50 years past the deadline: Why are Indian tribes still suing over ancient treaties?
Also important was Congress' understanding that no one should be allowed to litigate a claim forever. In return for the elimination of any statute of limitations on claims filed under the Act, tribes understood that the ICCA would provide complete, final closure to their complaints.
1965 - ICC awards the Chippewa, including the Mille Lacs Band, $3.93 million for insufficient payment under the 1855 Treaty. As with all ICC cases, the Chippewa, by accepting payment, were forever barred from future claims under the 1855 Treaty.
1973 - ICC awards the Chippewa, Including the Mille Lacs Band, $9.02 million for claims under the 1837 treaty, including claims for lost hunting and fishing rights. The ICC payments were based on the maximum value of the land, which was the timber, and acquired "recognized title," the most complete form of ownership.
1980 - U.S. District Court rules in a Red Lake case that clear language like that in the 1855 Treaty extinguishes all off reservation hunting and fishing claims. This ruling is later upheld by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
1985 - U.S. Supreme Court rules in a Klamath Indian case in Oregon, that similar language to that in the 1855 Treaty as well as ICC payments, extinguish any hunting and fishing rights.
1999 - The Supreme Court's ruling in the Mille Lacs1837 Treaty case concluded the Chippewa did not give up their 1837 rights under the 1855 treaty. But the 1855 treaty doesn't specifically mention hunting, fishing and gathering as retained rights.
Time to Act
Minnesotans have the opportunity to become informed at the beginning of this unwarranted attempt to expand treaty rights--and especially the creation of "tribal property rights" never imagined, mentioned, and far beyond anything authorized by treaties!
If ignored, expanded treaty rights would open the Brainerd lakes and Gull Lake area, and most of northern Minnesota, to hunting and gathering outside state law. That would just be in addition to asserting management or regulatory rights "related" to environmental issues over the entire 1855 Treat area.
Stay involved. Monitor the process. Let your legislators know you want them involved and showing leadership in ensuring equal protection of the law for all Minnesotans.
Douglas Meyenburg 763-843-1039 email@example.com
President, Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM)
Next Steps in 1855 Treaty rights expansion effort
Tribal activists seek citations for another Mille Lacs-style lawsuit
Tribal activists from the White Earth and Fond du Lac Bands last are using the illegal harvesting of wild rice to assert off-reservation harvest rights. They claim such rights were preserved for Native peoples in the 1855 Treaty between the United States and the Chippewa.
It is a reprise of a 2010 effort by tribal members to trigger a court battle, via illegal gill netting, that could affirm heretofore "undiscovered" or "undeveloped" treaty rights. That effort died after no charges were brought.
Behind the public demonstrations is a much larger concept, that of "usufructuary property rights." Protection of these rights will have land-use management implications far beyond wildlife harvest." Arthur LaRose, chairman of the "1855 Treaty Authority," says "If the group can establish off-reservation rights in those areas, it can more forcefully assert management or regulatory rights on larger environmental issues such as the burying of oil pipelines or the relaxation of mining-related sulfate standards for wild rice."
No basis for FABRICATING new 1855 Treaty rights
Before getting caught up in the activists' narrative, Minnesotans should consider the plain language of the 1855 Treaty in which the Indians “do further fully and entirely relinquish and convey to the United States, any and all right, title, and interest, of whatsoever nature the same may be, which they may now have in, and to any other lands in the Territory of Minnesota or elsewhere.
Minnesotans should also consider the Timeline making the case for NOT FABRICATING new 1855 Treaty rights.
Illegal wild rice harvest a bid for treaty rights expansion
Replay of Mille Lacs 1837 Treaty case would go far beyond 'harvest
Chippewa tribal members have announced they will challenge state wild rice harvest licensing laws. They plan a major off-reservation harvesting event on Aug. 27. They are hoping for a test case that can be brought to federal court to affirm their claims regarding the 1855 treaty's coverage.
Behind the scene is a much larger concept, that of "usufructuary property rights." Joe Fellegy first described this strategy in an Outdoor News article, which PERM discussed in its August Member Update newsletter, 'Co-management' land-grab? Move to expand 1855 treaty rights to include property rights
The treaty rights expansion effort springs from attorney Peter Erlinder's analysis of treaties going back to 1795. These treaties, ... "are likely to be sources of as yet unrecognized Anishinabe usufructuary property rights in the 21st Century."
He also refers to "sources of a deeper understanding of as yet undeveloped Anishinabe usufructuary property rights..."
These usufructuary property rights [somehow] include "the right to modest living." Which then requires "environmental protection to maintain the long-term value of the usufructuary property rights..."
Erlinder continues, "This, in turn, will have land-use management implications far beyond wildlife harvest, and promises a broadened role for tribal governments in land use decisions that might impact the harvest of wild game, fishing or gathering." State of Minnesota v. Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians, Ten Years On
LaRose echo's Erlinder's description, saying his group's concerns go beyond ricing, fishing and hunting. "If the group can establish off-reservation rights in those areas, it can more forcefully assert management or regulatory rights on larger environmental issues such as the burying of oil pipelines or the relaxation of mining-related sulfate standards for wild rice."
Besides pipelines and mining, "environmental issues" could easily include water usage policies, agriculture, sanitation, as well as protected flora and fauna. And the list could go on.
Instead of treaty harvest of Mille Lacs walleye, picture the DNR handling a "co-management" relationship with the EPA.
The case for no expansion
The Supreme Court's ruling in the Mille Lacs1837 Treaty case concluded the Chippewa did not give up their 1837 rights under the 1855 treaty. But the 1855 treaty doesn't specifically mention hunting, fishing and gathering as retained rights.
In a specific instance, one state judge ruled that the 1855 treaty "does not forbid creation of new rights of way on the land that was sold in 1855," and that the treaty couldn't be used to stop the pipeline. Wild rice harvest will test treaty rights
Finally, on July 27, 1965, the Indian Claims Commission awarded the Chippewa, including the Mille Lacs Band, $3.93 million for insufficient payment under the 1855 Treaty. As in all ICC cases, the Chippewa were forever barred from making future claims against the Federal government.
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Why Mille Lacs fishery faltered—and what we can do
Star Tribune outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson today responded to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr’s announcement that the Mille Lacs walleye quota might be exceeded by month’s end.
He references Dick Sternberg’s analysis in 2003, and his prediction that "management of the lake, if not changed, likely would contribute to a marked downfall of Mille Lacs walleyes."
"Marked downfall" is an understatement when it comes to this years token quota of 28,600 pounds. Unfortunately, it likely means walleye fishing on will end until at least Dec. 1.
Anderson notes that the DNR "largely dismissed" Sternberg's analysis in part due to "bureaucratic parochialism," and in part it was because "Sternberg undertook his data review at the request of PERM, or Proper Economic Resource Management, a group whose slogan is 'Ban the gillnet.’ Consequently, some viewed Sternberg's work as an anti-netting hit job. It wasn't."
Anderson points to Sternberg's early warning about cannibalism of young walleyes: "As long as the Mille Lacs walleye population remains heavily skewed toward the larger size classes, the threat of heavy cannibalism of young-of-the-year walleyes will persist."
Anderson adds that the DNR’s continuation of tight harvest sport fishing slot limits has also contributed to the lake's present-day imbalanced walleye fishery.
One of Anderson's key points is that co-management "has complicated [the balancing] task beyond measure irrespective of whatever effect, if any, the bands' netting has on the lake's walleyes."
Anderson says a "safe allowable harvest’" of Mille Lacs walleyes needs accurate estimates of walleye population and size distribution—which may not be possible. And even if it was, the DNR and the bands have more or less dismissed the cannibalism problem.
What really stands out is Anderson's suggestion that "the governor and key legislators should tell the DNR that its Mille Lacs fisheries management meetings with the Chippewa no longer can be held in secret." (!)
"Rather, to ensure from this point on that the public knows firsthand the nature, context and agreed-upon definitions of data being used to make management decisions, these get-togethers should be open to the public."
"And should have been long ago."
PERM Board members respond to DNR Mille Lacs announcement
- Walleye showing up after two years of no gillnets
DNR Blue Ribbon Panel dodges the gillnet problem on Mille Lacs
The walleye being caught in Mille Lacs this year are mostly in the 13 to 15-inch range. That tells us they are about two years old. That in turn tells us they hatched in the years when there was no gill netting due to weather conditions (late ice-out).
It is also logical to conclude that this year-class of fish was not adversely affected by water clarity, zebra mussels, global warming, spiny fleas, cormorants, muskies, northern, or high bass population. Observers should then surmise (with confidence) that the effecting variable was gill netting.
In this case, the lack of gill netting resulted in respectable levels of reproduction (despite the reduced population of spawning fish). Nature has provided us with the perfect scientific conditions that verify what many have long suspected. Gill netting during the spawn ruins a lake’s balance and targeting of a species results in near extermination.
Of course this same conclusion could be reached by looking at historical data from other lakes that have been gill netted. But now Mother Nature has provided us with irrefutable proof of a cause and effect relationship between gill netting and the walleye population's demise.
This also shows that the DNR's approach to improving the walleye population by targeting other species, such as northern or bass was misguided. Further, it is evidence that the DNR's "Blue Ribbon Panel" was far off the mark when they neglected to consider gill netting as a possible factor.
Nothing in their report, "Mille Lacs Lake Walleye Blue Ribbon Panel Data Review and Recommendations for Future Data Collection and Management," mentions the problem of gillnetting during the spawn.
The Panel started "by agreeing that the decline in Mille Lacs walleye began around 2000 ... which corresponded to a period of considerable change for both the walleye fishery and the lake itself."
"Significant changes" included going to a joint recreational and tribal walleye fishery in 1998, and introduction of harvestable slot limits the next year and protected slot limits in 2003. Then they add, "However, these changes in the fishery occurred against a backdrop of lake changes related to water quality, etc., etc., etc., (see the list above.)
Not once in the entire 31 pages of the report do the words "gill net" or "gill netting" appear regarding harvest of walleye! Surveys, data, assessments, yes, but never harvest, let alone "during the spawn."
The DNR has neglected to responsibly manage the resource in an unbiased manner for the people of Minnesota. The Tribes and GLIFWC are equally culpable in this mismanagement. There is no longer any need for debate.
These are my opinions and have not been reviewed or approved by anyone else.
Let me know where I am wrong.
Joe Ward, PERM Board Member
- Governor Dayton, Resign!
"I believe all hunting and fishing in Minnesota should be done under the same rules." Gov. Mark Dayton, Candidate Forum at Game Fair, August 2010. Gov. Dayton knew then about the issues at Mille Lacs. After the election, he appointed Tom Landwehr as DNR Commissioner. He also knew there were issues.
Five years later, nothing has been done. Will he use a meet and great at Game Fair in a few weeks to announce the future of Mille Lacs? I doubt it; maybe a press release at best.
The hierarchy of the MN DNR, Tribal DNR managers, and GLIFWC must take full responsibility for mismanagement of Mille Lacs. The Supreme Court did not order co-management. They stated the DNR must sit down with Tribal governments and figure a way to accommodate court-affirmed treaty harvest rights. They also stated, should conservation of the 1837 treaty area be negatively affected, bring it back to the court.
Therefore, I am telling Gov. Mark Dayton to FIRE the hierarchy of the DNR, along with head of Fisheries and his advisors, prior to turning in his resignation. Corporate Minnesota would not stand for this type of management, and neither should the citizens of Minnesota!
Doug Meyenburg, PERM President
Mille Lacs walleye quota expected to be reached by end of month
The DNR just announced what amounts to an upcoming announcement about the end of keeping a Mille Lacs walleye for this year.
Anybody think it wouldn't come to this? We're a long way from the 400,000 and 500,000-pound walleye quotas from years past; in a lake once known as a "walleye capitol"
Yes, "unusual circumstances" can be included in the explanation for why we are at this point. But "co-management" negotiations that dodge the gillnet issue leaves us with a measly 28,000 pound quota. Not much wiggle room there for any "unusual circumstances."
DNR biologists are noticing a large increase in the small walleye population from the 2013-year class. They should also notice that such a strong year class follows no gillnetting due to very late ice out in 2013. We expect a similar strong year class for 2014 because there again was very limited gillnetting.
Don't give up on Mille Lacs. Take advantage of Northern pike and smallmouth bass being "at or near record highs" and the " liberal regulations for these species" in what the DNR calls "one of the premiere fishing destinations in the state." Just don't pretend that this takes the place of a premiere walleye-angling destination.
Mille Lacs’s popularity rises and falls with its walleye population, but its sustainability is tangled up in political considerations and "co-management" negotiations. What's needed is more basic conservation and fewer sophisticated statistical models. That could drive common sense negotiations that recognize using gillnets during the spawn benefits no one, and leaves most Minnesotans out in the cold when it comes to this (former) premiere walleye angling destination.
Read the DNR press release here.
Doug Meyenburg, President, PERM
“Co-management” land-grab. Again
By Joe Fellegy, Outdoor News, July 17, 2015
Joe Fellegy writes about big challenges to state management authority and citizen rights to Minnesota resources. They come from renewed attempts to project tribal sovereignty over territory where it does not exist. If successful, the same "co-management" process that exists for Mille Lacs could spread across all of northern Minnesota.
Fellegy starts with the fish-in by Leech Lake and White Earth Chippewa gillnetters at Lake Bemidji before the 2010 Minnesota fishing opener.
"Their goal: get arrested for violating state law and spawn a major court-case claiming "treaty rights" across the 1855 Treaty ceded territory, a huge swath from the north end of Lake Mille Lacs and the Brainerd lakes area to the Canadian border at one point, and reaching the Dakota border at another. The DNR didn't bite. But efforts to gain tribal harvest and co management rights in that 1855 territory, and possibly across all of northern Minnesota, are-very much alive today."
1855 "treaty rights" claim revived
At meetings he attended last fall and early this June, Fellegy heard from tribal sovereignty activists, including Winona LaDuke and Peter Erlinder. "As usual, behind cushy talk about fish, ducks, wild rice, water quality, culture, heritage and tradition, [were] tribal governments and their attorneys … seeking more tribal harvest rights and management authority."
This "would-be dramatic power grab" is based on an expanded notion of 1855 "treaty rights" outlined in law professor Peter Erlinder’s recent treatise "Minnesota v Mile Lacs Band of Chippewa 19th Century U.S. Treaty-Guaranteed Usufructuary Property Rights, the Foundation for 21st Century Indigenous Sovereignty."
Fellegy noted that Erlinder uses U. S. District Judge John Tunheim's dismissal of fish-poaching charges as support for his expansion of "treaty rights." Fellegy describes Tunheim's ruling as one in which "an individual's 1837 treaty rights trump state, tribal, and federal law."
Down-the-road, Fellegy could see "Individual enrollees from outside the 12-county 1837 Minnesota ceded territory claiming new 'rights' at Mille Lacs and across hundreds of lakes, umpteen miles of streams, and millions of land-acres." In other words, "much-expanded tribal harvest rights and tribal management authority across all of northern Minnesota—about everywhere north of Interstate 94."
Fellegy wonders, "given the powerful legal and political forces embracing such arguments, with potentially giant costs and negatives for Minnesota, what's state government's response plan?"
DNR Commissioner's Pay Raise
Little Tommy just got a raise from $119,517 to $154,992 only $35,475., for a guy that should be fired for his lack of attention with regards to Mille Lacs. At least now he can afford some bi-focals so he can read the 1837 treaty decision, and get it back into the US Supreme Court. That wonderful document was just used again in dropping charges for "Operation Squarehook"! Thanks again to Gov "Markie Dayton" for all your faith in this matter!
Douglas J Meyenburg Jr
Dick Sternberg Update re Gambling on Mille Lacs
CORRECTION: Reference to gillnets in Dick Sternberg studies should have been to DNR test nets specifically "until they distribute their nets to sample the entire lake basin, they will not have a valid population index--or safe harvest level."
Dick Sternberg's concluding statement in Mille Lacs Fish Management Plan summarizes the study, and the major point being made in the previous email (and below.)
"Mille Lacs Lake is a world-class walleye "factory" with a walleye population that has proven to be remarkably resilient. Prior to the treaty-management era, the fishery held up well despite increasing fishing pressure, better boats, improved fishing tackle and precision electronics that enable even novice anglers to locate fish and unerringly return to the spot."
"Therefore, the DNR should submit a new management plan to the Court that enables them to increase the total walleye harvest to historic levels, which will not only help restore population balance, but also improve the health of the Mille Lacs sportfishing economy."
Studies can be downloaded from PERM's website here Mille Lacs Fish Management Plan See also Time For A Change Safe-Harvest Politics How to Fix Mille Lacs (Thank you Mr. Sternberg.)
That said .....
Whether you are a Mille Lacs angler or just gamble for money, we have a heck of a deal for you. Enter our 50/50 Raffle, where you can win up to $25,000!
PERM and SMLSF are sponsoring the raffle to help bring back Mille Lacs walleye angling and the local economy behind it. It's another reason to enter, and another way to win.
It's a good reason to enter, really, because the DNR-tribal "co-management" of the mighty lake, isn't going to fix itself anytime soon--not without citizen action!
PERM volunteers have been involved for about 20 years, raising funds, informing the public, pushing a case to the US Supreme Court. And more. Our work included getting studies by former DNR biologist Dick Sternberg. The studies showed that given the DNR's method of test netting, "they will not have a valid population index—or safe harvest level." But the DNR discounted the studies.
End results are showing they should have listened to Sternberg and PERM.
So we brought a lawsuit against the DNR. The Appeals Court did agree with the basis of the SMLSF / PERM lawsuit. It found the DNR did not take the Hunting and Fishing Heritage Constitutional Amendment into account in its rulemaking. Minnesotans certainly believed in the amendment. It passed by 70 percent of those voting! However, the court also sided with the DNR, saying there is no law that says they have to show they took the amendment into account.
Now we're working with legislators to correct this, so everyone's heritage is protected. This should be a non-partisan "no brainer"!
PERM's position is that "co-management" does not work--especially when half the "co-management team" is harvesting outside state law. The number of fish has steadily gone down since gillnetting during the spawn was introduced into Mille Lacs. Yet DNR explanations for the decline grab at and promote every single thing under the sun, including global warming.
Are we going to let failed politics continue to dictate Mille Lacs management?
It is my opinion the DNR does not want to take the 1837 Treaty decision back to the US Supreme Court. They fear the Court will blame them for the mismanagement. They fear the Court then will turn all management of the 1837 treaty area (which includes Mille Lacs) over to the tribes that signed the treaty.
So remember, that the DNR now manages all our natural resources, and that every square inch of MN is in an ancient treaty area. It's all "ceded territory," originally bought from the Indians. "No gillnets in Lake Vermillion" is just a handshake between two tribes, and we don't know for sure if the rumors in the Gull Lake area are true.
Everyone involved in the mismanagement of Mille Lacs, including the Governor, Attorney General, DNR Commissioner, and a whole bunch of DNR folks should be asked to resign! A properly put together Mille Lacs case can then be presented to the high court. Then all citizens should demand their legislators take an oath to see it through.
But the job starts with us! It takes citizen input and grassroots dollars to take on a bureaucracy as big as the DNR. Here’s what you can do:
1. Please support our 50/50 Raffle. Here are all the details! Or call us. Fred Dally--218-678-9775 Bob Carlson--218-838-6420 Bill Eno--320-692-4413 Doug Meyenburg-- 763-843-1039
2. Contact your legislators.
3. Ask your friends to sign up at perm.org for email updates. (Send to 10, or send to all your friends. This is a call for grassroots support!) And please include me, firstname.lastname@example.org in your forward list.
Lets make a change!
Thank you for your moral and financial support.
Douglas J. Meyenburg, President
What fish species is Lake Mille Lacs managed for?
Lake Mille Lacs has been turned into a trophy lake for everything but what originally made it the "queen of walleye lakes" in Minnesota. Reportedly, 90 percent of the fishermen and women came to Mille Lacs for walleyes.
Unfortunately, DNR Fisheries gurus have micromanaged the lake to death, and have effectively avoided what the real demise of the walleye population is. Tribal netting, though reported to be limited, continues. Muskellunge fishing is at its best. DNR Fisheries claims both have little effect on the Mille Lacs walleye fishery.
Netting and muskies appear to have been given Pope status and remain untouchable.
My recommendations: 1) Turn the voluntary walleye stamp into a mandatory Lake Mille Lacs walleye stamp. Allow the governor to negotiate with the tribes a financial agreement to eliminate netting on the lake. That seemed to work on Leech Lake and other lakes where netting—by Native Americans or commercially—was being done years ago. 2) Make keeping Muskies mandatory to reduce this huge predator's herd.
Lake Mille Lacs cannot be a trophy lake for all species or for all fishermen. Let's focus on the 90 percent who prefer walleyes.
Paul Dyrstad, Barnum
Outdoor News May 29, 2015 Letters
Mille Lacs Fishing Regulations
These rules are confusing, too
Has anyone followed the fishing regulations on Lake Mille Lacs? For northern pike, the possession limit is 10. But only one may be over 30 inches. However, two northerns of less than 30 inches taken the same day must be in one’s immediate possession before one harvests a northern of 30 inches or greater. What? And for walleye: possession, one, in the slot allowance. No catching one tomorrow if you haven’t eaten the one you caught today. No freezing one until later. What? And night fishing has been suspended. What?
Fix that beautiful lake Up North and help all of the people who depend on it for their livelihood. And, oh, to be safe, bring a lawyer fishing with you.
Susan Wilson, Savage
Star Tribune May 26, 2015 Readers Write
Haven’t we learned our lesson yet?
(Given the management of walleye harvest on Mille Lacs)
Ron Schara wonders if we’ve learned anything, given walleye management on Mille Lacs: –Walleye at a 40-year low “thanks to the DNR's miscalculated ‘safe harvest’ figures;” –Nobody at the DNR fired or transferred; and –Nothing from the Legislature to help hard-hit businesses around Mille Lacs.
He notes that “DNR Fisheries officials finally admitted their excessive harvest quotas aimed at 15- to 18-inch walleyes was a huge error” that gave us the current situation.
But “making Mille Lacs healthy again will be painful for all concerned.” Shara writes that "It wasn’t just tribal netting, by itself that decimated the walleyes in Lake Mille Lacs." Tribes with treaty rights have nothing to gain hurting the lake or its anglers.
Recently the Fond du Lac Band–at the request of the Bois Forte Band–agreed not to net and spear walleyes in Lake Vermilion this spring, even though they had the right. The Bois Forte wanted to keep Vermilion known for its tourism opportunities, not for its tribal netting. The request bolstered the Bois Forte's reputation as “good neighbors.”
Which Schara considered to be good news—and another lesson: “The goodwill of the Lake Vermilion community–its tourism business and all–is considered too important to risk for a few walleye dinners.”
For Schara, treaty rights “are not the issue. The issue is gill nets. It doesn't matter who sets them.”
He points out that lessons were learned from netting on Red Lake and commercial netting on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. Now those lakes have “returned to walleye glory, aided by state and tribal leadership.”
Schara’s key point: “the comeback of world-class walleye fishing did not occur until the walleye nets were eliminated or severely controlled.”
Read More - Ron’s Ramblings By Ron Schara Outdoor News May 8, 2015
Enter Heritage Fund 50/50 CASH Raffle!
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Fred Dally 218-678-9775 ..... Bob Carlson 218-838-6420
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The Heritage Fund is building a grassroots movement to protect Minnesota’s hunting and fishing heritage as ensured by the 1998 amendment to Minnesota’s Constitution. Partners include citizens, businesses, lawmakers, and policymakers. More
Clearwater County troubled by White Earth project
The Clearwater County Board of Commissioners sent this letter to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council on January- 9.
Commentary from Outdoor News January 30, 2015
Dear Council Members:
While Clearwater County is in support of the conservation of our lands, we are troubled by the fact that the White Earth Tribe has requested funding from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for $2,188,000 for the purchase of 1,994 acres on the White Earth Reservation and within Clearwater County. Our concern is that the lands, as described in the White Earth application, would be put into federal trust status. Trust status would result in the removal of state regulation, non-member rights to freely use the land, and removal of the land from the Clearwater County property tax roll.
The transfer from private land ownership to trust status will transfer all management rights, licensing, game regulation and enforcement to the tribe. The tribe can set its own limits and seasons, which normally include a longer season and a higher game limit than the state's.
Once the land becomes trust status, the tribe can and probably will restrict access to the property for multi-use access such as hunting, and the all-around enjoyment of the land by members and non-members.
Read More ...
Only the mediocre are always at their best
Much like our DNR, the Blue Ribbon Panel the DNR hired has to agree with those that sign the check. This is done all the time in government. Hire an "independent" panel to verify the findings of said agency.
When Rod Sando signed the band code to allow gill nets during the spawn about 15 years ago, he knew what the outcome would be. But Rod was already promised a job near the west coast. Why not hire a blue ribbon panel to say "Let's try Mille Lacs without gill nets for 15 years." Then compare the outcome to present day conditions.
The stats for walleye reproduction that I have seen are that 7-10% of laid eggs make it a year, coming from about 26,000 eggs per pound of adult female walleye. Well, 7-10% of a gill-netted walleye equals about zero. Maybe less than zero, since chasing around to pull and reset nets just might disrupt the spawning of those escaping the nets. Then consider the incidental catch of other species. But maybe DNR's blue ribbon panel didn't take that into consideration.
"Only the mediocre are always at their best". That's how the MN DNR reacts to questions about wildlife these days. Rather then saying "Lets get going and do what it takes to fix the problem," the DNR runs to their spin doctors for a story on how we will have to live with mediocrity.
Can you imagine being the guys and gals with the DNR that know better but in order to keep their jobs they must agree with the upper management?
Douglas J Meyenburg Jr.
Does our DNR enforce only laws they like?
It was announced in the Jan 16, 2015 Outdoor News that the MN DNR, Red Lake Nation, and Bureau of Indian Affairs signed a new 5-year memorandum of understanding last week that outlines continued cooperative management of the walleye population in Upper and Lower Red Lakes. Upper Red regs change again: Hot bite, high pressure drop walleye bag to two.
They recognize an imaginary line running south to north lining up with the Eastern boundary line of the Red Lake Indian Reservation dividing tribal waters from non-tribal waters. They do this knowing that in 1926 the Supreme Court ruled in US vs Holt State Bank, that the water, the bed, and the shoreline of ALL of Upper and Lower Red Lakes belongs to ALL citizens and is to be managed for ALL citizens.
The imaginary line is just that, imaginary! In a meeting I attended with then DNR commissioner Gene Meriam, he admitted the MN DNR was aware of this ruling, but said they were going to deal with the Red Lake Tribe "as we have for the last 75 years."
Now the mighty Red Lake harvest for state anglers has been cut to two fish. Maybe this should be the limit for all of Red Lake!
I am asked almost daily "Why is PERM involved in a lawsuit against the MN DNR regarding Mille Lacs?" The answer is simple. DNR policy makers are hired by us, the citizens of Minnesota, to manage our Natural Resources for ALL citizens. They are not doing this and every so often they need to be reminded they work for us.
Douglas Meyenburg, President
Upper Red regs change again
Hot bite, high pressure drop walleye bag to two
By Tim Spielman Outdoor News
Bemidji, Minn. — In anticipation of good fishing and great angler interest, and as a means to keep walleye harvest within a pre-determined "safe harvest range," the DNR implemented more restrictive rules for walleye anglers on Upper Red Lake this winter.
But even those changes – a daily bag reduced from four to three, and a broader protected slot of 17 to 26 inches – couldn't keep state anglers on Upper Red from shattering the harvest mark from last December. That also prompted the DNR this week to cut the daily and possession limit for walleyes on the lake to two fish. One walleye over 26 inches is allowed in possession. The regulation begins Jan. 23.
While ice angling's been popular on Upper Red for several years, this year weather conditions and other factors set the stage for the December record-setter, when about 77,000 pounds of walleyes were harvested, according to Gary Barnard, DNR area fisheries supervisor in Bemidji.
"What occurred was a couple things," Barnard said. "There was an excellent bite, and there was already ice on the lake in November, so (the official ice-fishing season, for harvest-tracking purposes) began Dec. 1. It made for a full month of high harvest and a good bite." Ice anglers came to the lake in droves.
"The pressure is really off the charts," Barnard said.
He said an increase in mobility caused in part by more "wheel houses" on lakes, along with much cheaper gas, likely led to heightened pressure on Upper Red. Also, slower bites on other big, northern waters likely pushed some fishermen to the Waskish area.
But greater fishing pressure originally was at least somewhat unexpected. "Usually when (regulations) are more restrictive, it drives the (fishing) pressure down," he said. "But it didn't."
Will it now, when the new rules take effect Jan. 23? Usually fishing pressure slides as winter progresses. Not so yet this year. "The pressure hasn’t let up at all," he said. "It's very noticeable in the area."
Barnard said greater restrictions were needed for a couple reasons. First, the state must be within a particular harvest range for a three-year average of walleye harvest, per an agreement with the Red Lake Nation. Also, the summer harvest season is still months away. "We really need to save some of the harvest for the summer," Barnard said.
A year ago, when the winter walleye harvest was about 120,000 pounds, the summer take was about 112,000 pounds. Last year's December take of walleyes was about 50,000 pounds, meaning harvest this year is up 57 percent.
Barnard said the department had hoped to keep winter harvest below 118,000 pounds of walleyes, but now, that doesn't appear likely. He said the DNR likes to work through such matters as they pertain to Upper Red with a local advisory group. While there wasn’t much time to offer opinions regarding the recent change, Barnard said group members understood the situation.
"They were very supportive of this," he said. "They understand the ramifications of if we don't (make changes). When we called and told them about this, nobody was surprised."
Todd Mortenson, of Mort’s Dock, is one of those group members. "The catch rates were really good in December," Mortenson said Tuesday. "Red Lake has really been the go-to lake in December the last two years, and this year was no different. Our catch rates have been so good, so I think people will understand. That's kind of my take. "It's not because we have a lack of fish. We have agreements that we have to live by between the state and the Red Lake Nation. We have to get our averages down where they belong. We have to bite the bullet and do it for now." Red Lake Nation controls more than 80 percent of the combined 285,000 surface acres of Upper and Lower Red lakes. Band members are allowed to harvest about 830,000 pounds of walleyes – most for the band's commercial processing operation – each year. Tribal hook-and-line ice anglers are allowed to take fish between 13 and 22 inches; there’s a 100-walleye bag limit for the harvest of walleyes caught for the commercial fishery.
Javier Serna contributed to this report.
Mille Lacs walleye lawsuit: Court hears arguments
An appeals Court has heard the lawsuit challenging the DNR's rulemaking process filed by PERM, Save Mille Lacs Sport Fishing, Twin Pines Resort, Bill Eno, Fred Dally and attorney Erick Kaardal.
This case was heard Thursday by a three-judge panel. Anglers, resorters, and homeowners on the lake attended the hearing in St. Paul. Many watched TV screens in overflow rooms and it was well-covered by media. This lawsuit could pay off far beyond Mille Lacs if it gets the broad ruling it seeks since a broad ruling could be applied to every lake and hunting area in the state!
Read More Video
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DNR Petitioned in District Court to Explain Damages to Public Water Wetland
and Agricultural Land
St Paul, Ramsey County, October 10, 2014
PERM (Proper Economic Resource Management), and eight other individuals and businesses who own or rent land directly below Curran Lake in Sibley County, filed a petition yesterday for a writ of mandamus in Ramsey County district court against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The Petition is a result of this year's 2014 spring-time flooding that caused damage to valuable agricultural land after the collapse of a flood-control culvert that was under the DNR's control and responsibility to maintain. The Petitioners had repeatedly warned the DNR since 2011 of the poor condition of the culvert but were ignored.
Support DNR Mille Lacs Rules Lawsuit
DNR rule making:
* Failed to consider hunting and fishing heritage protection that is in the Minnesota Constitution. – As a result, spawning walleye were not protected in Mille Lacs.
* Ignored the public-trust doctrine—government owns and must protect and maintain natural resources for public’s use.
– The public trust doctrine is a key tenant of environmental protection advocates nationwide.
* Lawsuit seeks hunting and fishing heritage protection ruling applied to EVERY lake and hunting area in the state.
– Citizens to have a voice in rulemaking process.
– Helps restore equal hunting and fishing rights for ALL.
See video explaining lawsuit at perm.org
More at savemillelacssportfishing.org
THEN - Sign up for email - Join - Donate
A 'Grass Roots' Movement!
Many $20 (or more) gifts will keep this lawsuit going.
MAIL: Payable to PERM Heritage Legal Fund 657 Main St, Ste 102, Elk River, MN 55330.
ONLINE: at perm.org or savemillelacssportfishing.org
PERM is a 501(c)(3) Organization. Gifts are tax deductible.
From The Chairman's Boat
Stepping up to save Mille Lacs
I spent part of Sunday sharing my boat with my daughter, son-in-law, and my twin grandsons on Coon Lake. It is a joy to bring fishing to a whole new generation. It is a big job for three adults to keep two 2-year-olds dry, hook free, and entertained. This makes me realize why I and many other PERM members have stuck it out for equal hunting and fishing rights for the past 20 or so years.
I wonder if these youngsters, when they are ready, will be able to enjoy fishing on Mille Lacs Lake as I have in the past. This is a big reason PERM has joined forces with Save Mille Lacs Sporting Fishing to sue the MN DNR over the policies used to manage Mille Lacs and other lakes.
Has this lawsuit had any effect on how they do business? I say yes. Was this lawsuit partially responsible for lifting the "night ban"? I say yes. Is this lawsuit the reason the DNR now has a traveling "Hooked on Mille Lacs On The Road" forum traveling the state? I say yes. Is this the reason the DNR has an online newsletter you can subscribe to? (Hooked on Mille Lacs update at www.mndnr.gov/millelacslakenews) I say yes.
These are all things they should have been doing prior to our lawsuit. Sometimes it takes a grassroots effort to make a state agency remember who they work for. Their next meeting DNR to discuss Lake Mille Lacs walleye reproduction, will be held at 6:30 to 8:00pm on Thursday, Aug 28, at the New Brighton Community Center, 400 10th St NW, New Brighton. Citizen input will be taken.
As a supporter of PERM, SMLSF, and this lawsuit, YOU are making a difference on how the DNR does business. Help make sure that the volunteers can keep our lawsuit funded by visiting PERM.org or savemillelacssportfishing.org and donating what you feel you can afford to keep DNR conservation activities and rule making transparent. View the videos posted here for updates. Erick Kaardal just today filed our response here to the DNR brief as described in his most recent video.
(Speaking of support, congratulations to Frank M. from Hampton, Minnesota, who won the four-gun "Family Plinker Pack" at PERM's Game Fair raffle. One gun for each mender of his family.)
Please forward this to your outdoors minded friends.
Doug Meyenburg, Perm Chairman
Mille Lacs battle still being waged in court
Legal wrangling over Mille Lacs continues, with attorney Erick Kaardal asking the Court of Appeals to invalidate the DNR' Mille Lacs management scheme in favor of one that considers the lake's "hunting and fishing heritage."
"Management of Mille Lacs, like all Minnesota natural resources, must be in accordance with the state constitution, including the hunting and fishing heritage of those resources," Kaardal said. "The DNR has failed to do so on Mille Lacs."
The case began April 24 when Kaardal asked the appeals court to rule that the DNR has not managed Mille Lacs in consideration of the cultural heritage that has developed around more than a century of walleye fishing on the lake.
The DNR responded May 29 by filing more 18,000 pages of biological and other records the agency says support its current Mille Lacs management. But nowhere in the voluminous filing is evidence the DNR has considered Mille Lacs' fishing heritage, Kaardal claims.
"That heritage is one of walleye fishing, not smallmouth bass fishing or northern pike fishing, which the DNR is attempting to change it to on Mille Lacs," Kaardal said.
Kaardal again asked the court to throw out the DNR’s Mille Lacs management plan. "The omission in their 18,000 pages is so egregious we want the court to direct the DNR to follow the constitution regarding hunting and fishing in all of its actions, not just regarding Mille Lacs,” he said.
Read more from Dennis Anderson Star Tribune July 29, 2014
DNR Mille Lacs Rules Lawsuit Moves Forward
Attorney Erick Kaardal has reviewed the DNR's response in the lawsuit challenging the DNR on it's fishing rules for Mille Lacs. The suit was filed on behalf of Save Mille Lacs Sportfishing (SMLSF) and Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM.)
The DNR's 18,700-Page court-ordered response shows DNR failed entirely to consider cultural heritage protections afforded by the Minnesota Constitution and the public-trust doctrine.
In their rule making process, they ignored the constitutional amendment affirming, "That hunting and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good."
"If you voted for the 1998 Constitutional Amendment (passed by over 77% of voters), according to Doug Meyenburg, PERM President, "you are left out by the way DNR makes all its hunting and fishing rules."
They failed to provide any legal basis for disregarding these protections.
Of particular interest to Mille Lacs walleye anglers, was Kaardal's finding that "they failed to show that they have not mismanaged the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population in violation of these protections."
The lawsuit is also based on Minnesota's long-standing recognition of a public trust doctrine. Under this doctrine, certain natural and cultural resources are preserved for public use, which the government owns and must protect and maintain these resources for the public's use. The public trust doctrine is a key tenant of environmental protection advocates nationwide.
VIDEO: Erick Kaardal Explains Suit (8.5 minutes)
What can you do to help?
Sign Up for PERM email ALERTS Join PERM Donate to Heritage Legal Fund
DNR Responds, Lifts Mille Lacs Night Fishing Ban
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE JULY 14, 2014
Douglas Meyenburg PERM 763-843-1039
Bill Eno Save Mille Lacs Sport Fishing 320-279-1174
The DNR has just lifted its ban on ALL night fishing on Mille Lacs. The ban was the most controversial part of their April 21 emergency Rule for fishing on Mille Lacs. Critics saw it as an unnecessary overreach and dodging the real issues behind the crashing walleye population in Mille Lacs.
The ban’s suspension came hard on the heels of a brief filed Friday, July 12 by attorney Erick Kaardal. His brief was the next step in the Save Mille Lacs Sportfishing (SMLSF)/Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM) lawsuit against the DNR.
The suspension “came out of pressure from the lawsuit, media, resorters, and anglers,” according to Doug Meyenburg, PERM President. “This is a grassroots lawsuit that is already having an effect on the way the DNR does business,” he added.
The DNR may be hoping that suspension of the rule will take the heat off them and the wind out of the lawsuit, rendering it moot. Not so, according to Kaardal. “I have seen this from bureaucracies before.” The lawsuit remains significant since “our case should be able to proceed because the rule still exists and is still effective through 2015,” according to Kaardal.
That Court of Appeals lawsuit first filed in May challenged the DNR for failing to preserve Mille Lacs Lake fishing heritage for Minnesota citizens, as required by a Minnesota constitutional amendment and by Minnesota’s related “public trust” doctrine.
The lawsuit argued that DNR’s April 21 emergency Rule for fishing on Mille Lacs “does not apply or even mention the applicable legal standards,” and therefore the rule is invalid.
The lawsuit further argued that the court in which the lawsuit (a Petition for Declaratory Judgment Against the Rule) has jurisdiction, and that the petitioners have standing to file a lawsuit.
The court then denied the SMLSF / PERM lawsuit’s request for the DNR to “show cause” or how it did not ignore the constitutional amendment and public trust doctrine. However, the Court did require the DNR to “forward the record and itemized list of the contents of the record,” to the Petitioners.
The DNR then respnded with an 18,700 page administrative record—that "did not mention the Preserve Hunting and Fishing Heritage constitutional provision, nor the public trust doctrine." Despite the length and apparent lack of itemization, Kaardal soon found that the emergency Rule, published by the DNR on April 21, 2014, does not apply or even mention the applicable legal standards.
The brief file Friday by Kaardal again argues for a Declaratory Judgment, since the DNR’s failing to preserve Mille Lacs Lake fishing heritage as required by the Minnesota constitutional and related “public trust” doctrine renders the Mille Lacs fishing rule invalid.
The brief further argues specifically for the Court of Appeals to issue a broad ruling. Several reasons are given, but of particular importance is to require the DNR to apply the law in every case. That would avoid piecemeal litigation--lake by lake or species by species. All lakes and sport fishing across the state would be covered by the ruling.
Read Brief of Appellants in Support of Declaratory Judgment here.
Ron Schara, in a candid moment, lays it on the line
The Star Tribune's entertainment columnist "C.J." recently interviewed Ron Schara. This month Schara celebrated 20 years of “Minnesota Bound.” C.J. took this as an occasion to do a Q&A with Schara, someone with whom she was friendly toward the end of his Star Tribune career, which spanned 1968 to 2007.
C.J.'s success interviewing celebrities comes in part from asking pertinent and provocative questions. She started right out with:
Q: What are three things you would change if you were in charge of the DNR?
Ron Schara rose to the occasion and in a straightforward reply said:
A: One, I would be more accountable to the collapse of the fisheries of Mille Lacs. Nobody’s been fired. Nobody’s been [reassigned]. Why not? Clearly DNR made a huge mistake there. Second thing I would do is be more proactive media-wise. I would have more news conferences, etc. And the third thing I might propose changing is having a citizens commission instead of a single commissioner, to take some politics out of it. I like our commissioner today, but he’s still appointed by the governor [serves at the pleasure of the governor and carries out his policies]
Read more C.J.: Every dog has its (bad) day, even Ron Schara's By: C.J. Star Tribune June 21, 2014
DNR still not finding a walleye predator to blame
More than a year into its "diet composition" study, the DNR, is not finding any confirmation that predator fish are responsible for the population crash of small walleyes.
Could it be predator gillnets that are "eating" the walleye?
The Pioneer Press' Dave Orrick reports on the DNR diet study.
The basic problem with Mille Lacs walleyes: Young aren't surviving. They're reproducing, and no diseases are killing them off, so the DNR is looking at whether they're being eaten, they're starving, or both.
Answers are critical.
Mille Lacs is a top destination for Twin Cities anglers, who support a robust tourism industry. The industry is trying to market other aspects, but the main show has always been the walleye.
Now there aren't enough walleye to go around -- a problem compounded by Indian tribal members who don't have to follow Minnesota laws and can legally net a portion of the lake's walleye.
The scarcity of young walleye -- and fear that without them the population could crash -- has prompted the DNR to set strict regulations this year, including a bag limit of two, and a complete ban on night fishing.
So even while Mille Lacs offers some of the best fishing in the state, longtime business owners say anglers are scarce this year.
"It's too early to draw many conclusions," according to the DNR study project manager. And there are study limitations that may never be overcome.
Walleye as predator
Under 13 inches: In summer and fall, mostly yellow perch. In winter, too few caught to have a good sense.
13 to 18 inch: In August and September, cannibalism picked up, with 10 percent to 15 percent of the diet. In winter couldn't tell.
18 to 23 inch: Similar diet patterns as 13- to 18-inch, except fewer walleyes. In the winter, they ate mostly perch.
23+ inch: Cannibalism noted in September and October, with 10 to 15 percent of their diet walleyes.
Less than 25 inch: From fall into winter, walleye became a notable part of their diet, with young walleye making up 20 percent to 25 percent of their food intake.
Over 25 inch: Walleye never made up more than 10 percent of their diet.
Mostly crayfish. When they do eat fish, the proportion of walleye is very small.
Read More... On Mille Lacs, who's eating who? By Dave Orrick Pioneer Press 06/14/2014
DNR Lawsuit Update June 12
Our attorney Erick Kaardal is working on document review and the appellate brief. A draft brief should be ready for review next week. The due date is June 28th.
It appears that the DNR did not make findings of fact regarding Mille Lacs Lake walleye fishing heritage prior to making their rules and determinations. Kaardal noted that the DNR produced thousands of pages of documents that he is plowing through to confirm this. But then he added, "So, everything is working out…it’s just a lot of work to do."
Stop the Bud-bashing and target the real culprits!
Joe Fellegy explains how leadership when it counted spared Minnesota from a reckless expansion of tribal jurisdiction and management authority
Outdoor News May 23, 2014
At angling websites and newspaper comment sections, when the topic touches what Ron Schara aptly dubs “the Mille Lacs mess,” one often sees ignorant, misinformed, and politically jaded remarks blaming Bud Grant. That’s Bud Grant, legendary former Minnesota Vikings coach, passionate outdoorsman, and equal-rights proponent.
If it hadn’t been for that darn Bud Grant, they say, everything could have been “settled” … for a mere “few million dollars and a few acres of land.”
Sounds like a bargain for a real fix. Except there was way more to it— like tons of legal baggage that would have impacted Minnesota’s resource-management authority and citizen harvest rights for years to come, not just at Mille Lacs but across 3,061,500 acres of 1837 Treaty ceded territory across 12 counties.
From the Chairman’s Boat …
First off, THANK YOU to all of you who are buying raffle tickets and sending in donations. PERM needs the funds to represent the sportsmen and women in this long-overdue lawsuit.
What is important to know is that this lawsuit doesn’t represent only anglers, even though the lawsuit’s focus is on Mille Lacs. The lawsuit, based on the right to hunt and fish in Minnesota’s constitution, includes all! (“Hunting and fishing and the taking of game and fish are a valued part of our heritage that shall be forever preserved for the people and shall be managed by law and regulation for the public good” —1998 amendment) Also, the 1837 Treaty decision does not only affect fish. All natural resources are included in the DNR agreement with the tribal governments.
Unfortunately, the DNR made a very feeble agreement, one that allows for the taking of most wild game without any regard for state rules. In many areas the tribal firearms deer season begins Labor Day weekend and carries on past the New Year and allows two deer per day per tribal member. Pheasants, grouse, and similar game harvest have little or no rules. Migratory waterfowl are the exception, since they are regulated by the Feds.
PERM is calling on all hunting and angling clubs that support specific species. This is a time for all sports-minded folks to stand up for equal hunting and fishing rights for everyone Members of these clubs joined because they wanted to carry on the tradition and heritage of the outdoor sports and all they have to offer. This is the basis of the DNR lawsuit!
You can help make this happen by donating money, items for fundraisers, your time, or your talents.
A golf tournament fundraiser is being planned for Sunday, August 3rd. So watch your emails for all the details. Since it will be near Mille Lacs, it just may be a great weekend for some fishing and golfing.
Please forward this to all your sporting friends and ask them to go to perm.org to sign up for email updates and to donate.
Thanks for your support!
President Proper Economic Resource Management
Comments on DNR Lawsuit
Rep. Sondra Erickson
On Monday, April 28, Representative Sondra Erickson wrote:
Last week a coalition of anglers, resort owners, and other Mille Lacs stakeholders announced a lawsuit against the DNR alleging mismanagement that has decreased the walleye population over the past several years. The group specifically cited the 1998 constitutional amendment passed by voters that aims to protect Minnesota's hunting and fishing heritage.
Lake Mille Lacs has a long history of being one of the premiere walleye fishing lakes in the country. The DNR's inept handling of the walleye populations in recent years puts that heritage at risk, and calls into question the effectiveness of their management of the lake.
I support efforts to hold the DNR accountable for their management of Lake Mille Lacs. Additionally, I hope this prompts the DNR to honor the state's open meeting law when making decisions regarding the 1837 Treaty area that impact fish limits and populations.
Opening the process and allowing anglers, resorters and guides to share their wealth of knowledge about the lake would go a long way to improving DNR management of the lake and its fishing resources.
---Sondra Erickson, State Representative, District 15A
Bob Kangas, retired game warden
On Thursday, April 24, 2014 Bob Kangas, wrote:
I want to thank you for going forward with a lawsuit against the Minnesota DNR for negligent management of the walleyes in Lake Mille Lacs. As you probably know, the Fond du Lac band is also going to spear spawning walleyes in 13 lakes this year in Northeast Minnesota. The band said they will not gill net in 2014 in these lakes. We must get the DNR to have some guts to say no to this method of taking. I've attached a letter I wrote to Outdoor News and a few other papers. It amazes me as to how few people are aware of this. Keep up the good work.
---Bob Kangas, Minnesota Game Warden, Retired.
On Thursday, April 24, 2014 Bill Eno, wrote:
Thanks Bob. Nicely said. We would like to pass your letter around if it is ok with you. Tomorrow in Foley there is a PERM banquet to raise funds for our suit. Not sure where you are right now, but there will be some great supporters and Erick Kaardahl our lawyer will be the main speaker. We all have to pull together and not miss a beat. Would welcome your attendance and maybe say a few words. Let me know. Thanks.
--- Bill Eno, Twin Pines Resort
From Hunters & Fishermen to Greenies on Earth Day: 'You’re Quite Welcome!'
Humberto Fontova 4/26/2014
Over 40 years ago, Americans from all walks of life came together to launch "Earth Day." It was a call to action for the conservation movement.
But well before the first Earth Day, millions of Americans "came together" in a "conservation movement." The Pittman-Robertson Act (1937) imposed an excise tax of 10 per cent on all hunting gear. Then the Dingell-Johnson act (1950) did the same for fishing gear. The Wallop-Breaux amendment (1984) extended the tax to the fuel for boats. All of this to "protect the environment" and buying and maintaining various forms of wildlife habitat.
To date, hunters and fisherpersons have shelled out over $20 billion "on behalf of the environment." The National Shooting Sports Foundation found that for every taxpayer dollar for wildlife conservation, hunters and fishermen contribute nine.
Please note: to "preserve nature," they don't tax hiking boots, Kayaks, mountain bikes, binoculars or birding Field Guides, but they do tax my shotgun, deer rifle, scope, compound bow, duck decoys, and camo pants.
Ten cents of every dollar I spent on my hunting and fishing toys funds things like habitat for Spotted Owls, Red Cockaded Woodpeckers, Snail darters, Black-Footed Ferrets, California Condors, etc., etc.
This avalanche of tax dollars comes on top of those I fork over for the stacks of licenses, and permits, and stamps I'm required to have before I set a foot afield. And…, all the above is on top of my voluntary dues and assorted donations to such as Ducks Unlimited. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation such donations total $300 million a year.
You'd think some thanks might be in order. Well, think again. Here's the Sierra Club's official position: "Wild animals should not be valued principally in terms of whether they can serve as targets. As members of the family of life, we should respect the moral right of all creatures to exist, to be free of unnecessary predation…"
Anyway, you're quite welcome Greenies.
DNR rules for Mille Lacs fishing being challenged in court
April 24, 2014
Today Erick Kaardal, attorney with Mohrman, Kaardal and Erickson, announced the filing of a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Kaardal is representing Save Mille Lacs Sportfishing, Proper Economic Resource Management (PERM), Twin Pines Resort, Bill Eno, and Fred Dally.
We are petitioning the Court of Appeals for a declaratory judgment on the invalidity the DNR’s Game and Fish Rules for Mille Lacs Lake Fishing published on April 21.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the new rules on the grounds that they violate Minnesota's Preserve Hunting and Fishing Heritage amendment, which recognizes a cultural heritage of all Minnesota citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or origin.
The lawsuit also seeks a Court order requiring the DNR to show the following:
• Why the DNR failed to consider cultural heritage protections afforded by the Minnesota Constitution and the public-trust doctrine.
• What statutory authority gives the DNR the right to disregard the cultural heritage protections afforded by the Minnesota Constitution, and
• How the DNR has not mismanaged the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population directly affecting the cultural heritage of Mille Lacs Lake in violation of the cultural heritage protections afforded by the Minnesota Constitution We are challenging DNR's mismanagement of the Mille Lacs lake walleye fishery that has led to the loss of Mille Lacs walleye fishing heritage.
Key to understanding this lawsuit is that Minnesotans in 1998 passed a law, a constitutional amendment that preserves Minnesota’s fishing and hunting heritage. However, DNR regulations regarding Mille Lacs fishing, violates this constitutional requirement.
It is important to note that this amendment came out of Minnesotans' long-standing recognition of a public trust doctrine. The public-trust doctrine is a key tenant of the environmental protection advocates nationwide.
This lawsuit is the first step in a multi-step process to restore the Mille Lacs walleye fishery and walleye fishing heritage.
Help PERM and the plaintiff group in making this legal challenge a success.
Read the entire Petition to the Appeals Court here.
View Erick Kaardal's discussion of the lawsuit here.
Read Dennis Anderson's Star Tribune article 'Anglers, resort operators sue DNR over Mille Lacs walleye fishing rules' here.
Read Doug Belden's Pioneer Press article 'Minnesota DNR sued over Lake Mille Lacs walleye fishery' here.
View KSTP TV Channel 5 'Group Files Lawsuit over Lake Mille Lacs Walleye Regulations' here.
View KMSP TV Channel 9 'MILLE LACS LAWSUIT: Residents sue DNR over walleye harvest cuts' here.
View WCCO TV Channel 4 'DNR Being Sued For Alleged 'Mismanagement' Of Lake Mille Lacs' here.
Help PERM and the plaintiff group in making this legal challenge a success.
TOTAL night fishing ban for Mille Lacs! -- Who Pays
Dennis Anderson on how DNR plan to boost walleye number 'catches others in the crossfire'
Star Tribune April 18, 2014
Understanding the logic of Mille Lacs fisheries management grew more challenging still when the Department of Natural Resources announced recently a total night fishing ban on the big lake this summer and fall. Not only of walleye angling, but of bowfishing for carp — as if this sport could be confused with jigging or long-lining for walleyes — and also muskie fishing, with its 80-pound-test line and plugs and bucktails the length of a man's forearm
The attempt by the DNR to reduce the big lake's walleye harvest by limiting access between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from May 12 to Dec. 1 is a best-shot effort to keep anglers from reaching this year's minimalist 42,900-pound quota prematurely.
Fishing is often productive at night, and by keeping anglers off the lake at that time, thereby slowing harvest, the hope is Mille Lacs walleye anglers can enjoy their sport throughout the coming year.
Among parties particularly aggrieved by the edict are the lake's launch owners, who often stay on Mille Lacs until well after dark, particularly in the hot-bite months of late May, June and early July. Their target is walleyes, and keeping the big boats docked, as well as the many nighttime bobber-fishing anglers who cast to rock piles after dark, might, in fact, yield the slow walleye harvest the DNR seeks.
Of course to sympathize with this approach one needs first to accept that anything to do with walleye management these days at Mille Lacs makes sense, starting with the DNR's failure to acknowledge that in effect, if not in fact, the big lake's walleye population has collapsed. Concerning as well is the DNR's seeming unwillingness to acknowledge that part of the lake's walleye management equation are the nets strung in its waters in spring by eight Chippewa bands. This failure to speak frankly about all elements at play at the lake — not just its zebra mussels and burgeoning smallmouth bass and northern pike populations, among other topics — has significantly undercut the agency's credibility.
Consider now the plight of muskie anglers and bowfishermen, significant segments of whom visit Mille Lacs each year. The former routinely fish at night, the latter exclusively. Both spend money around the lake, at gas stations, restaurants and motels — which everyone acknowledges the area sorely needs. Moreover, the actions of neither has anything whatsoever to do with Mille Lacs walleyes or the lake's walleye harvest.
Yet these anglers, too, are banned from fishing Mille Lacs between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., in part because the DNR says enforcing a night ban exclusively against walleye anglers, and not all anglers, would be difficult.
"I can't tell you how much this upsets me," said muskie guide Josh Stevenson, owner of Blue Ribbon Bait in Oakdale. "Mille Lacs is unlike any lake in the state. It's big, it's wild, it's a challenge and I, like other muskie fishermen, fish it regularly at night, maybe four hours on, four hours off, depending on the moon phase."
Added Stevenson: "Mille Lacs is a challenge like no other lake anywhere. If you know the lake and your timing is right, you have a chance to put a 50-incher in the boat. This might take days or weeks. But the fish are there, and they're often caught at night. To have that taken away from me just kills me. And for what? To reduce the walleye harvest?"
Curt Cich, president of the Land of Lakes Bowfishing Association, a state group, is similarly incredulous. Not only do bowfishermen shoot carp, an invasive species, thereby performing a public service, they do so in flat-bottom boats with generators running and high-beam lights glowing — hardly the profile of walleye anglers.
Cich has met with DNR fisheries and enforcement managers to plead his case but hasn’t heard back.
"I can't understand any reason why we should be kept off the lake," Cich said. "We have nothing to do with walleye fishing, and in no way could we ever be confused with walleye fishermen."
In a phone interview Thursday, DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira was sympathetic but asked anglers of all stripes to see the big picture. Rebuilding the lake's walleyes will be challenging, he said. And keeping Mille Lacs walleye fishing open throughout the year is important for anglers and the region’s economy.
But might pressure from bowfishermen and muskie anglers change the DNR's mind and allow them back on the lake at night this summer and fall?
If the past is prologue, don't count on it.
Better that these fishing specialists plead their case with the governor or legislators, who often are sympathetic to common-sense arguments, if only in election years, which this is.
Ban the Gillnets!
DNR's disconnect from Mille Lacs
From Joe Fellegy's column in Outdoor News April 4, 2014
DNR announcements about record-low walleye, quotas, and "radical angling regs for pike, bass, and walleyes," have triggered a firestorm of "public concern and disgust."
Distrust of DNR and state leadership is growing. It comes from their focus on a flawed [co-management] system, rather than on "citizen-stakeholders and a Minnesota resource treasure."
It's all about "eco-system complexities." Little mention is made of "spawning-time tribal gill-net fishing .... and the related 'treaty fisheries management.' "
Pike explosion? Now an alleged Northern Pike assault becomes one of those complexities. DNR then responds with regs to greatly increase the number of pike taken, including "A 10-pike limit. Darkhouse pike-spearing revived on waters famed for trophy pike and muskies. Pike season extended a month." Yet there is little to justify such "radical 'pro-active' management" of pike. And it's unlikely to draw attention away from the walleye fiasco.
Smallmouth bass regs The new, generous, smallmouth bass regs may also serve the same [unstated] agenda regarding walleye. Although the bass regs have generated a lot of static from bass pros. 'Hooking mortality' scam DNR adds "hooking mortality" to the catch-and-keep figure. The more regs force walleye anglers to catch and release, "the more they're punished with hooking mortality."
Not 'common sense' DNR is concerned about crash of smaller walleyes is about numbers. But "treaty management's emphasis is on total pounds." That means the walleye quota could be reached much more quickly.
A resource and 'heritage' surrender! Many Minnesotans are unaware that their state government has, in a real sense, surrendered half the Mille Lacs fish resource plus half the state's management authority over a huge state asset--with all the economics, culture, and Minnesota outdoor heritage that attach. The ridiculous 50-50 state-tribal pike and perch allocations have long been in play. Several years ago tribal managers noted they could go for 50 percent of the annual safe harvest level (SHL) on walleyes too. .... Don Pereira, DNR Fisheries Chief, affirmed the system: "The Bands' declaration is deducted from the total SHL and the balance is for State anglers. If the Bands' declaration is greater than half the SHL, then they are reduced to half the SHL."
Surely the 1998 Hunting and Fishing Amendment to Minnesota's Constitution, as well as the 2008 Legacy Amendment, didn't cut half the Mille Lacs fishery, traditionally Minnesota's largest, from Minnesota's outdoor heritage or from state management responsibility. Maybe DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Attorney General Lori Swanson, Governor Mark Dayton, and legislators on House and Senate natural-resources committees can elaborate.
Mille Lacs: DNR's terrible disconnect, and what comes next? By Joe Fellegy Outdoor News--April 4, 2014
DNR puts temporary ban on night fishing on Lake Mille Lacs
By Dave Orrick Twincties.com Pioneer Press 03/25/14
Night fishing on Lake Mille Lacs will be banned nearly all year this season, The ban -- the most stringent ever employed on the lake -- is among several changes announced by the DNR as it grapples with a declining walleye population in Mille Lacs.
But some resort owners and guides were outraged:
-- "It's like a dagger to the economy up here," said Bill Eno, owner of Twin Pines Resort in Garrison.
-- "They're going to have to figure something else out because this is blowing up right now," muskie guide Jason Hamernick said. "My phone won't stop with calls and texts."
Slow year for walleye
Given those tight restrictions, as well as an increasing amount of baitfish for the walleyes to eat, fisheries biologists believe the action will be slow this year for walleye, a trend that began this winter when ice anglers reported finding fish on sonar but having difficulty coaxing them to bite.
Still, DNR officials said they couldn't risk having too many fish taken.
The problem of Mille Lacs walleye is that for several years, they have not been surviving into adulthood, and scientists are trying understand why.
Treaties complicating matters
Complicating matters are treaties with Indian tribes that have rights to take fish from the lake. Biologists say only 60,000 pounds of walleye can be safely taken from Mille Lacs, including 42,900 pounds by non-tribal anglers. That's the lowest safe harvest level enacted under the modern treaty regimen.
But they know the night ban will be painful.
Eno said 75 percent of his business is evening launch cruises for walleye. He said he'll redo his schedules, but he's particularly worried about weekend anglers from the Twin Cities. Nobody can get off work Friday and make it up here by then from the Cities."
Hamernick said all of his muskie bookings involve an evening component -- often casting until past midnight -- because muskies on Mille Lacs bite better when the sun is low or down. "This is terrible," he said. "This'll push a lot of muskie guys to other lakes."
Muskie anglers catch few walleyes, but Pereira said it would be too difficult to enforce a selective night ban. As such, nobody will be allowed on the lake with any fishing gear aboard after 10 p.m.
Treaty management on Mille Lacs: Time for long overdue change
By Tim Ajax, Fishing guide, Isle – Outdoor News – March 21, 2014
The Lake Mille Lacs fish population has been out of balance for years. DNR knows their treaty management has played a role. Unfair fish allocations, spawning-time gillnetting, strict quotas and angling regulations, plus related bad publicity are too much.
• The DNR can’t keep saying thousands of feet of gill nets over spawning grounds for days does not disrupt the maximizing of the spawning reproduction process.
• The bands’ gillnetting and DNR regs target the same fish DNR now says are in short supply. if DNR worries about a giant eating machine they helped create, why keep anglers from harvesting the buildup of malewalleyes over 20 inches?
• Why the hooking-mortality assessment? Where else does DNR enforce a penalty on anglers for releasing fish other than Mille Lacs?
• For years before tribal gill-netting and DNR’s treaty management, anglers could keep six walleyes, with one over 20 inches. The harvest was spread over more walleye sizes. The result: more balance and a lake in farbetter shape.
• DNR and tribal managers now encourage more pike harvest so the bands won’t worry about exceeding their pike quotas and stopping walleye netting.
• From the start, we’ve been told the bands’ gillnetted fish are closely counted. Are they? Who’s watching? We see landings where there is no counting.
It’s time for sportsmen statewide, who care about Mille Lacs and other Minnesota fishing waters, to unite, rally, and support our precious resources. Communicate promptly and often with your state and federal government officials, and with candidates for office. No more politics. No more excuses. No more gill nets during the spawn. It is time to save the Mille Lacs fishery – the fish and the people.
Mille Lacs ‘Hooking Mortality’ Scam: Punishing anglers for conservation?
By Joe Fellegy Outdoor News March 15, 2013
Catch-and-release fishing—anglers unhooking and letting fish go—is a given in Minnesota’s sport-fishing world. Live-release is positively embraced by conservationists, tournament pros, and plain-folks anglers. And it’s used by managers to influence fish numbers and sizes.
Outside DNR’s Mille Lacs treaty management and its annual “safe allowable harvests” (quotas), where is “hooking mortality” a big issue? When calculating walleye harvest at Mille Lacs, anglers are assessed estimated hooking-mortality—pounds of walleyes that die via release. Those thousands of guesstimated release-mortality pounds plus guesstimated pounds of kept walleyes equals total walleye kill by state-licensed anglers.
Think of it. Penalizing a sport-fishing community for practicing conservation—in this case releasing walleyes via regulation! The hooking mortality assessment adds to the hassle, debates over extremist regs, and even fear of possible shut-down at Mille Lacs under treaty management. Unbelievably, the more they’re forced to release, the more Mille Lacs anglers are punished!
A main premise of catch-and-release fishing is that most let-go fish live. They contribute to a fish population’s health and to quality fishing. Where, beyond Mille Lacs, must anglers and fisheries managers obsess and worry about minority percentages of fish that don’t survive catch-and-release?
Under extremist Treaty Fisheries Management at Mille Lacs, especially given this year’s slashed “safe allowable harvest,” there’s heavy focus on the hooking-mortality penalty, which could push state-licensed sport anglers over the precipice.
A 15-year exemption!
Why punish Mille Lacs sport anglers with a hooking-mortality assessment for practicing conservation? It’s got anglers, resorters, and DNR managers worried and uncertain over what should be a non-issue. It’s inexcusable and must end. I’d argue that the Mille Lacs sport-fishing community deserves a 15-year exemption from unnecessary and unfair hooking-mortality assessments.
After all, through 15 years of separate state and tribal fisheries and “co-management” at Mille Lacs, not a pound of mortality has been assessed on the tons of unwanted northern pike annually “released” by tribal gillnetters. Ask veteran tullibee netters (like me), or DNR fisheries biologists who use gill nets in fish population surveys. Given how toothy pike behave in gill nets—twisting and tangling, often with gills wrapped tightly in net mesh—fair-minded and honest folks might suggest a 50- to 70-percent mortality assessment on often-doomed “released” gill-netted pike.
Face it. Here’s a real conservation issue, not a contrived one like hooking mortality. Yet, it’s gone unaddressed with no release-mortality assessments. For 15 years, tribal managers and tribal harvesters, unlike state-licensed anglers and DNR managers, haven’t faced possible netting shut-down because of pike-release mortality, a legitimate conservation concern.
Mille Lacs led on release
Instead of being hit with unfair hooking-mortality assessments, Mille Lacs resorters and anglers deserve top-rate treatment—especially by state fisheries managers—for their history-making boost of walleye-release in Minnesota. In the early and mid-1980s they inspired a statewide revolution promoting release of keeper-size walleyes.
Mille Lacs resorters and anglers played a pivotal role in promoting release ethics and release-based management. What an impact! Hey, give ‘em some credit for millions of conservation pounds across Minnesota! And free ‘em from today’s hooking-mortality scam.
Input Group responds to options—none includes gillnets
March 8, 2014
It was standing room only at the Mille Lacs Fishery Input Advisory Group meeting March 8. The big turnout was likely in response to the DNR Mille Lacs walleye harvest quota for 2014. Cutting the quota to less than one fourth that of last year may have gotten anglers’ attention.
Various harvest options were presented, most revolving around the crash of young walleyes. Options included pursuing other fish species instead of walleye. The DNR gave several explanations for the walleye crash—none included gillnets.
When challenged about the crashed walleyes’ impact on the local economy, DNR fisheries chief Don Pereira said “Federal court says we can’t fight tribal netting based on economics, only on conservation.”
PERM has long urged the DNR to take advantage of the court’s permission to use the conservation exception in its negotiations with the tribe. Failing that, the DNR is allowed unilateral action to ban the gillnets on Mille Lacs. PERM’s Economic Impact study was only designed to confirm the urgency of the DNR taking action via the conservation exception.
Tribal walleye spearing coming to NE Minnesota
March 07, 2014
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa will initiate spearing of walleye his spring in lakes within the 1854 ceded territory, which covers most of Northeastern Minnesota.
The initiative is, at this point, is likely to have low impact, and was described as being “pretty low-key.”
Testing the waters as it were.
The band’s right to hunt, fish, and gather in the 1854 treaty area was described as being “affirmed in the 1980s in federal court." However, the DNR’s own website explains that a lawsuit by Grand Portage, Fond du Lac and Bois Forte Bands ended with the bands entering into an agreement whereby 1) the state makes annual payments to each tribe, and 2) “the Bands establish their own regulations that apply to harvest by Band members. The Bands' regulations restrict commercial harvest, big game seasons, spearing, netting, and other activities of concern to the State.”
The agreement acknowledged harvest rights by the payments involved, but that agreement “approved by the federal court, does not commit to a legal conclusion as to whether the 1854 Treaty harvest rights remain valid."
A year later the Fond du Lac Band withdrew from that agreement. They continued with their own regulations including the restriction mentioned above. However, does not being a party to the agreement mean restrictions, such as spearing, no longer apply?
Start up of walleye spearing could test whether previously agreed to restrictions still apply. But that could only happen if anyone notices the “low key” testing of the waters.
Mille Lacs treaty management: state’s day of reckoning is here!
By Joe Fellegy – Outdoor News – February 7, 2014
This year the annual news cycle is already more negatively powerful than ever. It stems from treaty fisheries co-management and the state’s failure to protect state and citizen interests. Impatience is growing over state leaders who are more loyal to a flawed system than to their own citizens and Mille Lacs.
The future of a walleye angling destination economy is in doubt.
The bad news about Mille Lacs started early. It began with the usual new quotas, bag limits, size restriction, gill-net harvest reports, etc. It quickly expanded with the DNR hype on its “new plan” for Mille Lacs. Loss of the walleye-angling-destination work-arounds, such as promotion of alternative fish species, or non-walleye Mille Lacs tourism themes added to the equivalent of millions in negative advertising.
Errors compound the bad news barrage.
Journalists and politicos commonly misinterpret Court affirmations of basic treaty-rights harvests and OK on “tribal co-management.” Court affirmations of treaty rights are now applied to using gill-nets and all aspects of the “treaty management” system. These affirmations are used to immunize “managers from the scrutiny and hard questions … that policymakers should face.”
It’s also not true, contrary to the DNR’s past claims, that state government hands are tied. If state leaders remain indifferent to the Mille Lacs fiasco’s impact on Mille Lacs-related businesses, then maybe these businesses “should be exempted from state taxes.”
Politicians and media also have wrongly freed taxpayer-funded tribal governments and “co-management” bureaucracies from hard questions and accountability. They give a pass on using the “racism” label against anyone who questions their action.
Public policy on Mille Lacs, and its devastating impact on the Mille Lacs economy are bringing “ near-universal agreement that the walleye gill-netting and related “treaty management” must go.”
Read More ...
How to Fix Mille Lacs
By Dick Sternberg
Background. It’s been more than a decade since I worked on behalf of the Mille Lacs landowners group to expose threats to the walleye fishery that had begun to develop as a result of the new court-ordered “treaty-management” program. With fish-management decisions being made on the basis of treaty dictates rather than biological facts, most of the serious fisheries problems we are experiencing today were easy to predict. Now, after 15 years of treaty management, the walleye population is at an historic low and the DNR seems to be at a loss as to how to solve the problem.
In attempting to summarize the causes of the problem, the DNR says: "The problem is complex. Many things are or have been going on at once. (You can find the DNR’s assessment of the dismal walleye situation on its website's Mille Lacs page under the Background FAQ tab.)
One thing the DNR did not address in their laundry list is the difficulty for non-band members to catch “keeper” walleyes. Because of the extremely narrow harvest slot in 2013 (only 18- to 20-inch walleyes could be kept), anglers had to return 89 percent of the walleyes they caught. They were also assessed a “hooking-mortality” penalty on the walleyes they released, so when the bite was hot and large numbers of fish were being thrown back, hooking mortality far exceeded the catch of keepers. In July 2013, for example, anglers harvested 13,579 pounds of walleye and were assessed hooking mortality of 38,490 pounds which counts against the non-tribal harvest quota for the year.
Another laundry-list omission: the alarmingly low percentage of males in the walleye population. In the 2013 sampling, only 39 percent of the walleyes were males. DNR biologists suspect that the gender imbalance is the result of the tribal harvest, which runs 80 to 90 percent male, in addition to the non-tribal harvest which is heavy to males because slot limits force anglers to target the smaller fish. The long-term effects of the gender imbalance are unknown.
But the DNR didn’t need my input on the issues of cannibalism and heavy predation by other fish species; they knew exactly what was going on. “The pattern of year classes starting out strong but diminishing significantly over time has been occurring since 2000,” DNR said in the 2008 Technical Committee report. “Lower survival of young fish may be a recruitment response to the increased numbers of large fish since treaty management began in 1997,” they concluded.
So if the DNR understood this problem and most of the others on the above laundry list, why haven’t they taken stronger action to solve them? Cannibalism, for example, could be reduced by adjusting the slot to allow more harvest of large walleyes. That, in turn, would increase levels of perch and other forage fish, thereby benefitting smaller walleyes. But as the DNR reminds us every time this solution is proposed, harvest of more large walleyes would put us above the safe harvest level as dictated by the TREATY-MANAGEMENT system.
So how can we fix Mille Lacs? We must discontinue treaty management and establish a biologically-sound system that allows managers to manage with all of the tools at their disposal, not with one hand tied behind their back. That will require the State to go back to court and show that treaty management is un-biological, unfair to anglers and unlikely to restore the premier walleye fishery for which the lake has long been known.
It's STILL the nets
Dennis Anderson's 'stern steps' for Mille Lacs
Dennis Anderson in the Star Tribune yesterday wrote about the Mille Lacs walleye problem, "Mille Lacs predicament requires stern steps." Anderson's "stern steps" started with "No nets for the Chippewa, no keepers for the rest."
For starters, PERM recognizes Anerson for writing on an issue so often avoided by Minnesota journalists—gillnets in Mille Lacs during spawn, and "treaty fisheries management."
Last March Anderson nailed it when he pointed out the "real problem" with walleyes on Mille Lacs by writing "it's the nets!"
This time, after touching on a number of confounding factors, Anderson only says the gillnets "in and of themselves" are "not entirely" the lake's problem. This time he says it's a combination of the gillnets and the harvest slots.
Remember how the DNR and State blamed state anglers for over limits taken as a major part of the collapse of Red Lake, with twice the surface area of Mille Lacs?
Another confounding factor maybe, but Mr. Anderson, it's STILL the gillnets!
One recent assessment of gillnets showed there were eight MILES of tribal gillnets on Mille Lacs during the spawn! Taking the egg-filed female walleyes during spawn is still the primary problem.
Anderson gets more on track asking "what to do?" He suggests the DNR should go to Governor Dayton for an OK to ask the tribes to pull their gillnets until the walleye population recovers. Then he backs away with a much more modest "secondary possibility," ask the tribes to "focus their harvest on bigger walleyes."
But he returns again with a solid "if they refuse either option, the state should take them to court."
Remember, the Governor and the DNR are still responsible for all the natural resources in the state of Minnesota. They always had the authority to do what is necessary to protect Minnesota's natural resources.
Anderson opens up the discussion by asking for any better ideas, a sample of which he promises to publish in future weeks. (Send to email@example.com)
This would be a good time to suggest politically-driven, politically-correct half-measures have had their day. The fading Mille Lacs sports fishing economy demands no less.
Read the rest of Anderson’s Mille Lacs predicament here. Be sure to check out the comments too.
Joe Fellegy calls for pro-Minnesota policies and action in place of "tribal-training"
Contradictory rulings on the illegal sale of walleyes by two federal judges (Kyle – charges stick; Tunheim – charges drop) on two sets of offenders from the same bust, opens the door to endlessly expanding interpretations of "treaty harvest rights."
It’s another example of the unequal application of the law when anything tribal is involved. And it makes the common sense rule of “everyone hunts and fishes under the same laws” an increasingly remote possibility.
Gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton made promising comments in the Outdoor News booth at 2010 Game Fair. He called for equal fishing and hunting rights in Minnesota. So where’s Governor Dayton's fix? Nowhere. Instead, Gov. Dayton signed Executive Order 13-10, mandating all Executive Branch agencies to develop regular tribal consultation, tribal-friendly practices, and a stew of collaborations, interactions, and trainings.
Order 13-10 training for Executive Branch agencies, which already have numerous agency-tribal liaisons, should be replaced with much-needed transparency and accountability on tribal matters.
Read more "Trade tribal-training Order for pro-Minnesota policies, action" by Joe Fellegy Outdoor News December 6, 2013
Who owns Red Lake?
Supreme Court affirmed State's ownership of Red Lake
With more attention given to the poaching case in Northern Minnesota involving members from several Indian Tribes, "Sale of contraband walleyes from Red Lake, Leech Lake persists" it's again clear that one major point is missing.
All press accounts I have read imply that all of Lower and about half of Upper Red Lake are controlled by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa. This is an assumption PERM has questioned for years. In fact, it is directly contradicted by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1926 U.S. v. Holt State Bank decision.
In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Red Lake was not made part of the Red Lake reservation, so there was no "exclusion of others from the use of navigable waters." They added that in the creation of the Red Lake reservation "There was nothing in this which even approaches a grant of rights in lands underlying navigable water..."
The court affirmed that the Indians were to have access to the lake, and to be entitled to "use them in accustomed ways; but these were common rights vouchsafed to all, whether white or Indian..." The Court added that these waters "shall be common highways, and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of said State as to all other citizens of the United States." Finally, the Supreme Court concluded, "...the State on its admission into the Union became the owner of the bed of the lake..."
In a televised interview with then DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam, I brought this to his attention. He answered, "We know of that decision, but we plan to deal with the Red Lake Band the way we have for the past 75 years."
Since Holt has never been overturned, does that not put our state in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling? The Governor, DNR Commissioner, Attorney General, and all members of our legislature have been notified of this various times. Ignoring this should put them all in violation of their oath of office, to uphold the law of the land.
Saving Mille Lacs: Minnesota's 'walleye stadium'
Ron Schara gets it right
Ron Shcara is well informed about Mille Lacs. So we're happy to read his straightforward account about the collapse of the walleye population there. The mainstream media is catching up with the Mille Lacs fishery management issue!
Schara's account in the Friday, April 12 Outdoor News, "Saving Mille Lacs: Minnesota's walleye stadium," doesn't speculate about any confounding factors that need lots more research. He says "it's a walleye crisis of our own making." The reason—once again—is the "spring netting assaults by eight bands of Chippewa," which he combines with the "voodoo walleye rules by the DNR."
"It's time for a reality check" according to Schara, and we couldn't agree more—except maybe to add, "long past time."
Schara presents a list of parties that "should be outraged." Then he unwinds the DNR and tribal fish manager's walleye game plan. He highlights the contradiction of common sense referenced by Star Tribune columnist Dennis Anderson two weeks ago. That is, the DNR's agreeing to strict walleye restrictions, while agreeing to netting that is "highly effective" in harvesting the very walleye protected by their restrictions. (That might explain Schara's "fish management lunacy" comment.)
Governor Dayton is called on to get behind a search for solutions, in a process "free of political correctness and racial overtones." Schara challenges the DNR in the same way. Go after a common sense solution, while remembering that "the Mille Lacs Band has a history of wanting to be good neighbors."
Suggestions by Dick Sternberg, former DNR fish biologist who "predicted the lake's walleye population demise over a decade ago" are a good place to start according to Schara. He draws these suggestions from a PERM publication written by Dick Sternberg, "The Mille Lacs Fish Management Plan: Threat to Minnesota's Premier Walleye Fishery (On Behalf of Mille Lacs Lake Landowners.)"
PERM retained Sternberg's services when Mille Lacs "co-management" was first getting underway. PERM paid well over $50,000 for expertise that could temper the DNR's initial approach to accommodating the impact of treaty harvest of walleye. A follow up report "The New Mille Lacs Plan: A Closer Look, By Dick Sternberg on behalf of PERM" has additional suggestions to address "the constraints of treaty management."
We hope that other journalists will be as forthcoming in shining a light on the Mille Lacs fishery management issue.
Is the treaty harvest system broken?
Join PERM and become part of the solution
Ten men have been indicted for the buying and selling of walleyes, according to a story by Doug Smith today in the Star Tribune. The walleyes and other fish were netted from lakes on the Red Lake and Leech Lake Indian reservations.
The illegal activity has been going on since 2009 and was considered "widespread." In that time "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of poached fish were sold. The indictments confirmed rumors, which Grand Rapids fishing guide Tom Neustrom said "have been flying for years that band members were netting fish and selling them."
Leech Lake Band legal director Lenny Fineday upped the number indicted saying "Between 15 and 20 individuals will likely be issued tribal citations." He added, "Those people are either members of the Leech Lake Band or other bands."
Highlighting PERM's long-standing concern about using gillnets for the treaty rights harvest of game fish, Fineday emphasized that "Under the band's conservation code, the act of netting was not illegal," Netting is perfectly legal when it is used for "sustenance fishing."
The Star Tribune report compared the current indictments with similar poaching allegations back in the 1990s "that led to the collapse of the walleye fishery on … Upper and Lower Red Lake."
Read more Sign up for PERM Alerts Join PERM and become part of the solution.
A Path To Victory
The past dozen years have been discouraging for Minnesota citizens who opposed the effort by the Ojibwe Bands to reinstate the 1837 Treaty hunting and fishing rights. Many people believe that the battle ended with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in 1999 recognizing the treaty rights.
But two legal issues were not addressed by the United States Supreme Court’s decision in 1999:
1) Whether the Indian Claims Commission Act prevents the courts from issuing an injunction barring the State of Minnesota’s enforcement of its fish and game laws.
2) The Second Phase of the trial was never heard in the District Court or at any other level, because the State of Minnesota opted to enter into agreements or protocols with the Bands allowing the treaty harvest under the Bands’ hunting and fishing codes.
The only issues ultimately decided by the Supreme Court and District Court decisions were whether the treaty right was still in existence and whether it extended to private lands. The first issue, the Indian Claims Commission Act, has been the subject of other articles.
This will focus on the Phase II issues, which should be heard in the District Court.
It's the nets!
Dennis Anderson gets it right
After all these years of reporting on Mille Lacs, its walleyes, and some of the byproducts of tribal-state "co-management" coming out of the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Dennis Anderson finally gets it right.
In his Star Tribune article yesterday, Anderson says the DNR's most recent solution, a two-walleye limit, "doesn't address the real problem." He uses the term "bizarre" in describing the DNR's walleye limit announcement. But he saves "wackiest" for the DNR's new Mille Lacs smallmouth bass limit.
Given the new Mille Lacs walleye sport-fishing quota--cut in half this year--and accounting for "release mortality," Anderson can see that "the lake, perhaps, would be shut down to walleye fishing."
So what does the DNR do? It trades off the "world-class smallmouth fishery" as an alternative to the busted walleye fishery. According to Anderson it's "Bye-bye world-class smallmouth fishery."
He attributes DNR managers' growing list of factors confounding walleye management to their being practiced at "public-relations management." Factors he considers "secondary worries" in any case.
The problem he says "hides out in plain sight every spring" with ice-out.
It's the nets.
Anderson: Two-fish walleye and bass limits obscure real issue on Mille Lacs
By Dennis Anderson - Star Tribune, March 29, 2013
State 'leaders' giving away state resources?
Joe Fellegy asks some tough questions
State's ambiguous conservation authority
In his most recent column Fellegy asks about the state's increasingly ambiguous legal jurisdiction over conservation whenever tribal governments challenge the State's authority. Then conservation authority and landowner property rights often go out the window.
Fellegy explains with examples where Minnesota Indian tribes unilaterally declare their authority over specific conservation issues.
Currently tribes are leading these assertions with wolf-protection. This issue comes with a lot of politically correct sympathy from some quarters, almost all of which completely ignores the underlying agenda of tribal governments.
When conservation is about walleye
Fellegy connects the increasingly intolerable Mille Lacs hassle with "state leadership's lack of resolve to defend state and citizen interests." Fellegy reports that the DNR (and the State's) defense, is based on 'its hands are tied.'"
State government's hands appear to be similarly "tied" in Wisconsin. Fellegy points out examples of the Mille Lacs situation having its counterpart in Wisconsin. There, the "horrendous playing-out of 'treaty rights' " has just expanded the number of one-walleye-bag-limit lakes from 10 lakes to 197 lakes! At this rate, he wonders, "Who knows what the future could bring?"
Fellegy describes the modern Indian Industry as being deep into law and maximizing its power. Unfortunately, he notes, across the DNR there is "no comparable intensity." It's a passive attitude that has left "many in the outdoors community increasingly distrustful, and even scornful, towards state government."
Are state 'leaders' giving away state resources and state control?
By Joe Fellegy - Outdoor News, March 29, 2013
Mille Lacs walleye limit cut to two
Mille Lacs walleye limit cut to two Perplexed by a complicated and underachieving Lake Mille Lacs fishery, the Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday that anglers can keep only two walleyes from the big lake when the state’s open water fishing season begins May 11.
And Mille Lacs walleyes that end up in a live well or on a stringer must measure between 18 and 20 inches — though one trophy larger than 28 inches can be kept. Read more.
Wis. DNR, Chippewa tribes locking horns again
MILWAUKEE - The state Department of Natural Resources and the Chippewa tribes in northern Wisconsin are locking horns again, this time over the tribes' plan to dramatically increase the number of walleye harvested this spring.
The Chippewa bands' announcement last week ratcheted up the conflict in what has been a sometimes contentious relationship between the tribes, the state and nontribal neighbors. Tribes already were upset over state moves to allow a wolf hunt and to relax certain mining standards, and their latest announcement invites comparison to a situation decades ago when the resumption of spearfishing spawned protests from other residents that escalated into violent confrontations. Read more.
Next PERM Board Meeting Monday, May 6
PERM's December meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 6 at 7:30 pm in the Boardroom at the Cinema Professional Building 657 Main Street in Elk River.
Joe Fellegy gets it right
Mille Lacs fish fiasco: Give the human side overdue attention!By Joe Fellegy – Outdoor News, Feb. 6, 2013
Joe Fellegy doesn’t hold anything back. He starts out like this:
Fish and fishing people comprise a fishery. Without people there is no fishery. Given the ongoing turmoil at Mille Lacs—traditionally our “premier walleye lake” but now, increasingly, the controversy capitol of Minnesota fishing—state leadership better rescue both fish and people from the quagmire. They owe us. After all, back in the 1990s miscreants in state government helped dig the Mille Lacs hole. And seemingly indifferent state personnel have maintained it. Last year the Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group passed a resolution asking DNR officials to use state legal and political clout to end the mess. Have they?
Fellegy gives state leaders, along with “would-be conservationists, academics, and journalists” a well-deserved jab, because they “turn blind eyes and even run for cover from the Mille Lacs monster.” And worse, they “callously overlook the human element, the thousands of people trapped … by walleye gillnet harvests and by ‘treaty fisheries management’…”
Even more significant, is Fellegy’s fresh take on the Mille Lacs situation as a moral issue. He brings up the principle of "the Double Effect." This refers to a set of ethical criteria in which the permissibility of acting when one's otherwise legitimate act (for example, recognizing treaty harvest rights) will also cause an effect one would normally be obliged to avoid (for example, trashing the Mille Lacs walleye fishery and local economy.)
At what point would the ethics of "double effect" come into play? Fellegy shows how it already has.
The DNR? Not yet. Why not? Because they use a very narrow interpretation the Supreme Court's ruling. In the DNR's interpretation, the DNR cannot object to "specific methods of take, ethics, or fair chase." (DNR letter to the Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group, January 24, 2012.) Or more plainly, "Our hands are tied. And, there is no elephant in the room."
The advantage of a very narrow interpretation? It comes with a lot of politically correct—and politically expedient—cover. Downside? A premiere walleye fishery destination is depleted, with a local economy increasingly on the ropes. And then add living under the ever-growing taxpayer-funded '"co-management" bureaucracies.
The Court's ruling can (and should) be more broadly interpreted. For example, the court did not order gillnetting, treaty harvest rights are usufructuary, meaning they are granted and come with a responsibility to preserve the resource, and the DNR can legally restrict treaty harvest rights if there is a problem with public health, public safety, or conservation. Again, more plainly, we cannot overlook the property rights of the state and its citizens just to avoid dealing with exploitation of the Mille Lacs fishery under cover of "treaty harvest rights."
Read more on Joe Fellegy's take, "When the bad far outweighs any good, and when those in charge fail to minimize the harm, there’s a problem!
Is Mille Lacs out of balance?
Walleye numbers are low and legal keepers hard to find, leaving some anglers anxious. The Department of Natural Resources is planning a spring study to peg the population and try to determine the cause.
(See Related, below)
Once again, this lake is putting anglers, biologists, and policymakers to the test.
In October, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' annual gillnet survey reaped the fewest walleye in the 40 years the survey has been standardized. Biologists [were] "very concerned."
Underneath it all lie tensions over Indian tribal netting of fish, especially since the tribes have expressed a desire to increase their share of the annual bounty this fish factory serves up.
In a few days, officials with the DNR and American Indian groups will meet behind closed doors to figure out the acceptable tonnage of walleyes that can be harvested from the lake this year. There's good reason to believe that number could be lower than last year's take. The meeting isn't public, but the decision is to be announced soon after.
And that could affect the size and limits of fish that could be kept next year, which could mean the coolers once again will remain empty and frying pans un-greased.
This, in a lake that is as important to the hearts of tens of thousands of anglers as it is to the state's tourism economy, from guides to resorts.
So a lot of people are watching.
One outcome that's unlikely is one many guides and resort owners have been pushing for years: ending tribal netting during the spring spawn.
In the back of everyone's minds are fears that Mille Lacs' walleye population, which is entirely naturally reproducing, will plummet, as it did in Leech Lake a number of years ago and as it did most dramatically in Upper Red Lake, where the population collapsed in 1999.
Both lakes have rebounded. But on Leech, it followed stocking fish and killing thousands of cormorants, and on Red, the season was closed for seven years to let stocking take hold.
Related: Rep Sondra Erickson (15A) introduces transparency, open meeting bills
HF33 would increase transparency by requiring the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) commissioner to report annually on the costs associated with the management of fisheries in the Lake Mille Lacs and the ceded tribal territory based on the 1837 treaty. I believe it's important that Minnesotans are aware of the exact costs year - which number in the millions - as well as the services. We also need to know what kind of funding is provided to the Ojibwe tribes as a part of the 1837 treaty.
HF42 requires meetings involving the DNR, Ojibwe bands and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission involving the 1837 treaty rights to be subject to open meeting requirements outlined under state law. It would allow members of the Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group only to attend the meetings and perhaps local press.
HF42 would also require an annual report on aquatic invasive species containment efforts under state law to help ensure existing enforcement mechanisms and whether or not state laws are being followed to achieve containment of these harmful invasive species.
Emergency alert on Mille Lacs walleye crash
Last fall, the DNR found Mille Lacs walleye survey results so low (lowest since 1983,) that they pushed the co-management arrangement into "condition three."
Yet, it was still pretty much business as usual this summer. Harder decisions would have to wait until a DNR technical group could take another look this fall.
Bad news. Survey results this fall are the lowest since 1972, and a continuation of a decline that began in 2009.
What can be done? Start with a common sense elimination of gill nets during spawning? Or schedule another study in the spring—after the next round of treaty harvest gillnetting walleye during spawning.
For nearly 20 years, members of PERM have been challenging the idea of using gill nets in Mille Lacs during walleye spawning season. PERM keeps pointing out how much this contradicts the DNR's mission of stewardship to the governor, legislators, DNR, plus other state and agency officials.
You could do the same. Call the governor, attorney general, DNR Commissioner, and your legislators (especially while they are candidates!) Demand that they take action and get involved, and publicly address treaty harvest issues.
If you want to learn more about saving Minnesota's premier angling destination, come to PERM's Blainbrook event on December 6.
Press Release: Moderate Standard of Living
Study: Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa does not live in poverty. On average, their income is on par with Mille Lacs County as a whole
(BOSTON -July 23 2012) An extensive income analysis by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University finds that Chippewa Band families and households, on average, are not living in poverty. The finding does not justify the expansion of fishing, hunting and gathering rights to meet the income needs of the Chippewa Band.
The average incomes of the Chippewa Band are well above several measures of low and moderate income used by federal agencies and a local Minnesota group. Moreover, while the average incomes of Chippewa Band’s smaller families and households continue to trail those of Mille Lacs County as a whole, the incomes of the Chippewa Band’s larger families outpace those of Mille Lacs County as a whole. READ MORE ...
Full Report: Moderate Standard of Living
Standard of Living of the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa
Historically, average incomes of the Native American Indians have fallen well below the national averages. However, the adoption and rapid expansion of casino gambling on Indian reservations over the past three decades has narrowed the gap between Native American incomes and average households. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is no exception. The average incomes of the Band are well above several measures of low and moderate income used by federal agencies and a local Minnesota group. Moreover, while the average incomes of smaller families and households within the Mille Lacs tribes continue to trail those of Mille Lacs County as a whole, the incomes of the tribe’s larger families outpace those of the Mille Lacs County as a whole. It is clear that the Mille Lacs Band has achieved incomes that cannot be considered low and are on par with the local population as a whole. Full Report here
Press Release: Impact of the Treaty Harvests on Mille Lacs Economy
Study: Mille Lacs economy suffers as treaty regulations limit fishing and hunting rights for residents
(BOSTON -August 2, 2012) Since a 1999 Supreme Court ruling upholding the fishing harvest rights of the Mille Lacs Chippewa Band of Chippewa’s, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has increased the band’s allocation of fish on Lake Mille Lacs to over 142,000 pounds of fish. In response to the ensuing scarcity, the Minnesota DNR has imposed restrictions on residents not bound by the treaty. These regulations are stifling the local Mille Lacs economy, 14.7 percent which are dependent on industries related to hunting and fishing and leisure and hospitality. READ MORE ...
Full Report: Impact of the Treaty Harvests on Mille Lacs Economy
The Economic Impact of the Treaty Harvests on the Local Economy of Mille Lacs Lake
Since the 1999 Supreme Court ruling upholding the fishing harvest rights of the Mille Lacs Chippewa Band of Chippewa’s, Minnesota DNR has increased the Chippewa Band’s allocation of fish on Lake Mille Lacs to over 142,000 pounds of fish, a staggering amount. As a result, the sustainable harvest has been unstable and precarious. However, the DNR has instituted strict fishing quotas that only apply to Lake Mille Lacs. These restrictions have hurt industries most dependent on tourists, as frustrated anglers have sought out other lakes in the region. These industries comprise 14.7 percent of the local economy, and have suffered the brunt of the real damage, as these restrictions do not operate in a vacuum. Policymakers should take notice and action to correct the situation. Full Report here
Call to Action! Mille Lacs 5-year Plan needs input
Help our DNR bring some sanity to this situation
On July 26 the Minnesota DNR will begin secret meetings with the Mille Lacs band of Chippewa and GLIFWC (Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission) to determine the future of Mille Lacs sport fishing. They will set safe allowable harvest guidelines for State anglers and Band members for the next five years. The conclusion of these meetings could very well seal the fate of Mille Lacs and the entire 1837 Treaty area. READ MORE ...
Kudos to the DNR for recognizing the Mille Lacs problem
Thanks to the Star Tribune and Dennis Anderson for bringing this to print
The DNR deserves credit for finally facing the gillnetting problem on Mille Lacs. They used plain English in pointing out the “tribal fishery exploitation rates” as the problem. It’s not the sport anglers fishing with hook and line. DNR to bands: Mille Lacs has problem
Now the DNR must keep the public involved and informed. The Mille Lacs fishery management process should be open and transparent.
There is no need to keep increasing the size of treaty harvests—let alone allowing the use of gillnets. Thanks to PERM members and supporters who helped pay for our Mille Lacs Band Standard of Living report, we now know that the “subsistence” argument no longer applies.
That is important to know, because if this situation does go back to court, then the court will have to look at whether the tribes have achieved a “moderate standard of living.”
In the case of Mille Lacs band, they have. According to PERM’s report on the US Census Bureau’s 2010 count, Median Household Income for a 4-person Mille Lacs Band Family is $70,809. This compares to $65,737 for Mille Lacs County.
I don't have an issue with a few ceremonial fish being harvested as long as MN State laws are followed. But now that a moderate standard of living has been achieved, the courts can, as they have in the past,—and must—stop the nearly open-ended exploitation of one of Minnesota’s greatest natural resources.
Feel free to let DNR and your elected officials know that you want the Mille Lacs fishery management to be open and transparent.
Douglas J. Meyenburg, President
Click here, US v Holt State Bank, to read the actual ruling.
Can 'subsistence' justify treaty harvest quotas?
Doug Meyenburg's message to Minnesota Legislators
Can "subsistence" still be a basis for justifying the ever-expanding Mille Lacs treaty harvest quotas?
The need for subsistence fishing, by definition, does not apply after a "moderate standard of living" is reached. Which is the case when U.S. Census Bureau data show that the 2006 -2010 five- year average of median income of a 4-person Mille Lacs Band household is $70,809. For Mille Lacs County, it is $65,737.
If anything, the ever-expanding Mille Lacs treaty harvest quotas should be declining.
At the very least, gillnetting (a factory farm method,) during the spawning season of Minnesota’s premier game fish, netting mortality of rejected species, and "incidental take" (that included a state record Muskie) should no longer be tolerated.
Gillnetting spawning walleye contradicts all principles of conservation and stewardship.
It’s time to end it.
PERM is asking the legislature to get involved. Examples of where to start included proposals this session for: legislative approval for treaty harvest agreements, fishery management cost reporting, and open meeting law applied to treaty-related meetings.
Take steps to move both tribal and non-tribal parties beyond "what's mine" and work together to restore Mille Lacs as a treasured angler destination and major asset for the Mille Lacs economy.
Douglas J. Meyenburg, President
Record Muskie NETTED on Mille Lacs
It's long past time to ban the gillnets!
Just learned that a new state record Muskie was killed in the gillnets on Mille Lacs. A post on the Lakestatesfishing web site stated:
"It was reported to me by a Mille Lacs Resort owner that a 54.8# Musky was taken by gill net today on the east side of Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota. It was supposedly 56" long. That is all the information I have at this time. If true, it likely would be a Minnesota state record if it had been taken by hook and line. Update: I talked to again to the source and this information comes directly from the Aitkin Fisheries office."
After reading some of the comments on this post, I wanted to confirm this myself, so I called the Aitkin DNR fisheries office and talked to Eric Jensen. He confirmed the report and told me it was taken in a gillnet by a Fond du Lac Band member.
How many trophy Muskie, Walleye, Northern, Bass, Crappie, Sunfish, or Perch are netted and never reported to the public? It’s long past time to ban the gillnets! (Here's a video of more Muskies netted and tossed.)
Input Group asks DNR to act on Mille Lacs gillnetting
The Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group, formally request that the DNR draw on Minnesota’s legal and political resources, and use its authority as primary manager of Minnesota’s natural resources (including the Mille Lacs fishery,) to respond to the massive gillnetting of Mille Lacs walleyes and pike, the only such spawning-time gill-net fishery in the United States.
‘Business as usual’ is unacceptable.
Examples of compelling reasons and serious concerns include:
• Major Conservation Issues
• Lack of Transparency
• High Costs
• Disproportionate Allocation of Mille Lacs Fish
Read the full proposal.
DNR dodges Mille Lacs gillnet, quota issues
Policy of official indifference prevails
Just took another look at two recent articles in Outdoor News by Rob Drieslein and Joe Fellegy. They shine a light on the annual behind-the-scenes negotiations between the DNR and Chippewa tribes over their Mille Lacs treaty harvest quotas.
Both articles do a good job of explaining the Mille Lacs treaty fishery management quagmire in plain English. They’re well worth a read.
According to DNR comments made to Outdoor News editor Drieslein, the DNR "cannot object to methods the bands use to kill walleyes" and, gillnets "are not a conservation issue." Gillnets are not a conservation issue? The tribes could use dynamite along with their miles of monofilament gillnets and the DNR could do nothing?
As far as the DNR was concerned, it’s only a question of “whether the bands stay within their quota."
Where did those “quotas” come from? They came from a negotiating process required by the Supreme Court in lieu of a specifically-defined Phase II allocation. Negotiating quotas—and representing all Minnesotans—is the DNR’s job. Drieslein has more to say here.
Joe Fellegy calls it like it is. “Nobody can deny that the miles of tribal ‘subsistence’ gill nets on Mille Lacs spawning reefs and shoals each spring, plus the related ‘treaty fisheries management,’ could win awards for the most bizarre, most culturally offensive, most costly, and most-challenging-for-managers fishing monstrosity on the face of Minnesota. Yet, amazingly, official indifference to legitimate citizen concern, anger, and frustration continues. (Where are the journalists and conservation activists, Fellegy wonders.)
Fellegy did some digging and makes some interesting walleye-net-survey-result comparisons. He shows how the DNR has painted itself into a corner with its treaty management efforts to date. Big picture: “there’s been no leadership, no outreach, no discernible politicking, or work to advance state and citizen interests.” That’s on top a continuing loss of accountability to all citizens of Minnesota. More on Fellegy's DNR top brass appear uncaring in face of Mille Lacs madness
Now might be a good time to contact the DNR—651-259-5022 or email Tom Landwehr—and point out how the Mille Lacs Fishery Input Group's resolution is simply about the DNR doing its job, and being responsible for representing the interests of all Minnesotans.
(Douglas J. Meyenburg, President)
Large Fish Kill Discovered Near Leech Lake
Hundreds of dead Northerns and Walleyes were found in a rotting pile of fish, about 10 miles east of Leech Lake. A December 2 CBS/WCCO report noted that Tullibees, Muskies, five-pound Northerns, and thirty-inch Walleyes were seen in the pile. Perpetrators cleaned the Walleyes, and left the rest of the fish to rot.
It’s the kind of collection that can only come from gillnetting. It was described as “wanton waste.” In this case, that’s malicious, defiant and without justification whatsoever.
Story and video.
When it comes to 'treaty rights,' who will defend state interests?
Joe Fellegy raises key question ...
"Given state government's weak record on tribal-related affairs--an official reluctance to defend state and citizen interests--it’s probably naive to trust the offices of Attorney General, DNR Commissioner, and others, to move beyond complacency, silence, and apparent satisfaction with the status-quo (including the perennial Mille Lacs meat-grinder.)"
‘Treaty rights’ issues: will state officials defend state interests?
(Joe Fellegy, Outdoor News, June 10, 2011)
PERM agrees that the state laws that have been broken by various tribes should be prosecuted by the State DNR, and the Attorney General's office to the fullest extent of the law. Our DNR and AG's office know that these are state game laws that were broken.
During the 1837 Treaty lawsuit PERM paid to have alot of research done. This information was made available to our State agencies, but they turned it down. PERM hasn't lost this information and we will again offer our assistance to the state.
PERM is a voice for the average citizen and believes strongly that it is the tribal governments that need to be upholding the language of the treaties.
I encourage you to read Joe Fellegy's article, then forward this email and ask your friends in the sporting community who believe in equal hunting and fishing rights to support PERM anyway they can.
Thank you for your assistance. Doug Meyenburg, PERM Chairman
Douglas J. Meyenburg, President
Treaty rights claims proliferating
State facing high stakes legal quagmire
Dennis Anderson (Star Tribune sports writer) is on top of the issues in giving a heads up today (Treaties stir up the peace) on the latest treaty rights claims. He does not see tribal-state negotiations over these claims coming before being heard in a federal court. This, especially after the “convoluted ‘co-management’ ” and the “ever-increasing walleye quota” from the Mille Lacs fishery coming out of the last major treaty rights case in 1999.
PERM, and others who have extensively researched treaty rights, also believe that state and local governments should take this situation seriously. Doing so would help quash the growth of entitlements manufactured under the guise of treaty rights, ”tribal sovereignty,” reparations, political correctness, or kowtowing to well-funded special interest groups.
As Anderson notes, the state currently “lacks the corps of Indian treaty experts it employed a decade or more ago, a position of weakness—with the stakes so high—it can ill afford.”
PERM believes state and local governments should use all the expertise at their disposal. Specifically, the state and local governments should actively pursue application of the Indian Claims Commission Act (ICCA). This Act of Congress was carried out to settle every claim, legal and moral, by tribe or Indian, once and for all. All settlement was accomplished between 1948 and its completion in 1972.
That achievement may explain why tribal claims are now being directed at state and local governments, which may not be aware of their recourse to the ICCA.
Unfortunately, the state of Minnesota never used the ICCA when it was fighting the 1837 treaty harvest rights case in 1999. PERM’s representation of landowners in the case was effectively stymied by the state’s failure to apply the ICCA argument.
We hope that mistake is not made again. We hope the ICCA can be used as it was intended.
A little prevention by highlighting the ICCA now would go a long way to head off expensive lawsuits, maintain positive relationships with our friends and neighbors—and ensure equal protection of the law for all citizens sustainable access to Minnesota's natural resources.
Douglas J. Meyenburg, President
Cedar Lake Fish-In -- NO Citations
Friday, May 13 - The tribal "fish-in" involved about 15-20 Dakota Indians who apparently set nets in the middle of the night. They then pulled them out this morning for the benefit of DNR Officers watching from the opposite shore. DNR officers confiscated about two dozen fish and escorted tribal netters to their cars, but didn’t issue citations.
Information about the netters that was gathered in the largely peaceful process will be forwarded to the Hennepin County attorney's office for consideration of charges. Organizers believe they have a right to net fish under an 1805 treaty and hope to be charged so they can bring a case to court.
PERM believes this is a game violation against the state and that the state should ticket and prosecute them as they would any other game violation.
Illegal 'fish-ins' to promote expanded 'treaty harvest rights' --FRIDAY MAY 13
Red Lake, Cedar Lake targeted
It was reported to us that Minnesota Chippewa will be illegally harvesting fish tomorrow in the state portion of Upper Red Lake listed as the Waskish area.
Dakota Sioux activists also plan to gillnet the same day in Cedar Lake, next to downtown Minneapolis.
Please stay away from these areas. If you must observe, observe only. It you take pictures, consider sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since this is an illegal activity, ask your DNR officials to write tickets and confiscate boats, rods, nets, and anything else used in these illegal activities.
Steve Fellegy Launches Website
C.A.S.S.T (Citizens Against Selective Sovereignty Today)
On May 13th, 2010, Steve Fellegy purposely made a “cast” into the Lake Mille Lacs waters, to ultimately, harvest a walleye during the traditionally closed fishing season for ALL citizens, but exclusively open to Native Americans at the same time, to expose unequal rights being sanctioned by the U.S. and Minnesota state governments.
"Our fight is NOT with American Indians. It is with the U.S. Government." Short term focus is on exclusive rights. Long term focus is on modern day solutions to Native American issues and to create better lives for Native Americans.
Mille Lacs Angler Challenges Tribal Netting
‘Cobell’ $3.4 Billion Mismanagement Payout
WHO is responsible?
Doug Meyenburg—citizen—recently wrote Minnesota’s Congressional delegation about the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement. He wrote to ask, among other questions, how a program got to be so mismanaged as to cost taxpayers $3.4 billion!
Read Doug's letter here ...
What is the “Cobell Settlement”?
Cobell v. Salazar is a class action lawsuit brought by Native American representatives against the United States government. Plaintiffs claim that the U.S. government incorrectly accounted for Indian trust assets, (land which came out of the Dawes Act.) These lands were assigned to individual Native Americans, but managed by the Department of the Interior on their behalf.
Read Cobell summary here ...
You can ask for answers too! —Call, write, or email
(Then click "Home" above left to return to this page)
Joe Fellegy's Kudos to editor, and priciest walleyes!
Rights affirmed, but 'grow like topsy'
I caught last Sunday night’s Outdoor Talk on KTLK, 100.3 FM, and heard a lively discussion about 2011 Mille Lacs fish allocations under “treaty fisheries management.” Rob Drieslein, Outdoor News editor and the show’s co-host, offered his take on what certainly is the most grotesque, costly, and high-impact legal-political-social fiasco on Minnesota's fisheries scene.
“I want to be clear,” Rob said. “This tribal netting is completely ridiculous ... I think it’s an abomination.” He was referring to tribal resource managers targeting spawning walleyes with a massive gill-net fishery.
(From Joe Fellegy March 11 story in Outdoor News)
Read more ...
Bands' walleye harvest continues to rise
Harvest levels on Lake Mille Lacs stir debate
The Chippewa bands netting Mille Lacs walleyes this spring will be shooting for a record 142,500-pound harvest, 10,000 more than last year. Non-band anglers take has been reduced by 14,000 pounds. (From Doug Smith March 3 story in Star Tribune)
Read more ...
Bands' walleye harvest continues to rise
Harvest levels on Lake Mille Lacs stir debate
The Chippewa bands netting Mille Lacs walleyes this spring will be shooting for a record 142,500-pound harvest, 10,000 more than last year. Non-band anglers take has been reduced by 14,000 pounds.
That’s 71 tons of fish, 42 percent more than the allocation four years ago. It shows a rising harvest by Chippewa netters since 1997, when courts affirmed off-reservation fishing rights.
The bands’ 26 percent of the “safe harvest level” is a 26-74 percent split. But actual harvests the past three years have averaged 42 percent of the total. Twice in the past eight years, the bands' actual harvest exceeded 50 percent of the total walleye take due to low overall harvest.
How high will the bands' harvest go in the future? Will fishing regulations for non-band anglers need to be tightened to prevent over-harvest? At what point might band allocations be challenged?
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Chippewa's favor in 1999, but the court never said how the walleye resource should be divided between the bands and non-bands.
There is growing interest in netting fish among band members according to Brad Kalk, from the Mille Lacs band natural resources department. "Over the past decade, the number of band members who net on Mille Lacs has steadily increased," he said.
But the bands' next five-year plan is a big unknown according to the DNR.
Mille Lacs fishing guide Steve Fellegy violated fishing laws to raise a court challenge to what he says are unequal hunting and fishing rights. He says when the bands first filed their initial lawsuits in the 1990s, they asked for relatively few fish a year. "Here we are at 65 tons in spring 2010," he said. "I have grave concerns about what the future brings, based on the past."
From story at Star Tribune
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Quotes in the news
Is Mille Lacs-style ‘co-management’ planned for northern 2/3 of MN?
The plan is outlined in attorney Peter Erlinder’s “Anishinabe Nation’s ‘Right to a Modest Living’ From the Exercise of Off-Reservation Usufructuary Treaty Rights ... in ALL of Northern Minnesota.”
This is the legal argument that could also make taxpayers liable for up to $420 million in back payments for not having Mille Lacs-style ‘co-management’ in northern 2/3rds of Minnesota.
Courts have affirmed treaty rights, but how they are exercised is negotiated. Expanded exercise of rights would be negotiated under threat of a $420 million lawsuit.
For example, did the US Supreme Court’s Mille Lacs decision approve gill nets during walleye spawning season? No, the DNR approved a tribal conservation code that included gillnets and shining deer over bait—among other practices outside of state law.
Who negotiates for Minnesotans? How many more lakes will end up with gillnets? Will we know anything before it’s a ‘done deal’?
From a PERM Ad in Outdoor News, August, 2010
Peter Erlinger: Ojibwe treaty rights in Minnesota
Professor Peter Erlinder from the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota says the Minnesota v. Mille Lacs (1999) US Supreme Court case and other Ojibwe legal victories have paved the way for White Earth and Leech Lake bands to hunt, fish, and gather off their reservations in the ceded territory.
The law school professor thinks it may be more cost effective for the state to negotiate with the bands and establish co-management of resources in the territory, like Wisconsin, rather than fight the tribes in court.
Erlinder thinks the Anishinaabe are in a position to help save the land from mining, logging, and over development. “Ojibwe treaty rights are a device to help keep the land healthy.”
From a video produced by Nick Vander Puy | www.IndianCountryTV.com
Future of Tribal Sovereignty
Ken Davis, chairman of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa said the right to self-governance lies directly with land, and that to expand sovereignty, the land base has to be expanded.
“To purchase land only from tribal members doesn't expand sovereignty."
Davis recommended buying as much land as possible whether out of or within the reservation's boundaries.
From Indian Country Today (Oneida, NY) | September 10, 2008 | By David Melmer
Tracking the Land: Ojibwe Land Tenure and Acquisition at Grand Portage and Leech Lake
“The federal trust responsibility must be revitalized in order to become an effective method for tribal land acquisition. The Indian land tenure reality … has prompted many to prioritize land acquisition.”
From a 2008 Dissertation by Leah Carpenter for the University of Arizona
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Leech Lake-White Earth Fishing Protest
Key 1855 Treaty fact dodged
By Joe Fellegy (From Outdoor News, May 21, 2010)
The illegal "treaty rights" fishing on Lake Bemidji on May 14, was related to the new quest for White Earth and Leech Lake Chippewa off-reservation harvesting rights across millions of acres and multiple counties in the 1855 Treaty ceded territory. Tribal co-management authority is also being sought.
Read more ...
Treaty with the Chippewa, 1855 - Full Text
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'Son of Mille Lacs' lawsuit pending?
The recent Leech Lake White Earth protest to assert “hunting and fishing rights” started out with illegal fishing, as well as use of illegal gillnets.
Were gillnets in these protests used to establish gillnetting as part of treaty-based harvest rights in upcoming negotiations or lawsuits?
Use of gillnets would fit under claimed treaty rights. Dale Green, with the Leech Lake Band’s legal department, was quoted on MN Public Radio saying the 1855 Treaty included the right to “hunt, fish and gather using modern means.” Did "modern" in 1855 include 4 by 100 foot monofilament gillnets?
Is spearing also planned for in the exercise of claimed treaty rights? Muskie guru Pete Maina compared the violent incidents when the Ojibwe asserted their right to spear walleye in northern Wisconsin, with Green’s comments about peaceful demonstrations and negotiations.
An earlier demand for recognition of harvest rights in Minnesota did lead to gillnetting—during walleye spawning season no less—in Mille Lacs. Gillnetting and quotas turned up, even though court affirmation of harvest rights never covered what exercise of those rights included.
That was negotiated behind the scenes instead and presented to the court for approval. Ongoing tweaks were allowed, again, to be carried out almost entirely behind the scenes. On top of this, a huge, unwieldy, and expensive “co-management” bureaucracy was created.
“Modern methods” and massive co-management could be coming to vast stretches of northern Minnesota.
Still, it is well established that Minnesota citizens, and likely the majority of rank and file tribal members, have a strong sense of stewardship when it comes to Minnesota’s natural resource heritage. They are not going to buy the exploitation of hunting and fishing rights under the window dressing of claimed “treaty rights."
Peter Erlinder 'Treaty Rights paper
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Is this what 'usufructuary' looks like?
'Treaty fishing rights' exploited
Fish gut piles are boorish and irritating, but certainly not reflective of the attitude of most tribal members (we will argue.)
The bigger issue is the extent to which recognized—Supreme Court affirmed—harvest privileges are being exploited. That is, exercised far beyond the original intent of either parties to the 1837 Treaty.
|Mille Lacs gut piles show destructive capacity of gill netting||
Some fish are discarded whole
The 1999 Supreme Court ruling, Chippewa v. Minnesota, referred to usufructuary rights.
What is a usufructuary right?
It is a right that allows the use of property that belongs to another. Usufruct is the right of temporary possession and enjoyment of something that belongs to somebody else, so far as that can be done without causing damage or changing its substance.
Usufructuary rights are assigned, can be rescinded, and confer a responsibility to preserve the asset. In the case of assets that are consumed, preservation confers a responsibility for sustainable consumption.
Lost Gillnet's payload
Is gillnetting covered as a usufructuary right?
Gillnetting walleye during spawning does not preserve renewable natural resources! And, as both the gut piles abandoned on private property, and the recovered fish-laden “ghost” (lost) gill nets show, the destructive power of gillnetting totally contradicts the meaning of usufructuary rights and sustainable consumption.
Get the gillnets out of Mille Lacs!
Mille Lacs gill-netting: biggest scam on state’s outdoor scene
Gillnetted-fish gut piles draw attention to bigger issues
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Stop the commercial gillnetting
Get the gillnets out of Mille Lacs!
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Red Lake Ownership
Red Lake Ownership established by Supreme Court Ruling
U.S. vs. Holt State Bank Supreme Court ruling in 1926 concludes with the following statements:
“… the lake, and therefore the lands under it, was within the limits of the Red Lake Reservation when the State was admitted. The existence of the reservation is conceded, but that it operated as a disposal of lands underlying navigable waters within its limits is disputed. We are of opinion that the reservation was not intended to effect such a disposal and that there was none.”
“… There was no formal setting apart of what was not ceded, nor any affirmative declaration of the rights of the Indians therein, nor any attempted exclusion of others from the use of navigable waters. The effect of what was done was to reserve in a general way for the continued occupation of the Indians what remained of their aboriginal territory; and thus it came to be known and recognized as a reservation. There was nothing in this which even approaches a grant of rights in lands underlying navigable waters; nor anything evincing a purpose to depart from the established policy, before stated, of treating such lands as held for the benefit of the future State.”
"… Without doubt the Indians were to have access to the navigable waters and to be entitled to use them in accustomed ways; but these were common rights vouchsafed to all, whether white or Indian, by the early legislation reviewed in Railroad Company v. Schurmeir, 7 Wall. 272, 287-289, and Economy Light & Power Co. v. United States, supra, pp. 118-120, and emphasized in the Enabling Act under which Minnesota was admitted as a State, c. 60, 11 Stat. 166, which declared that the rivers and waters bounding the State "and the navigable waters leading into the same shall be common highways, and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of said State as to all other citizens of the United States."
"We conclude that the State on its admission into the Union became the owner of the bed of the lake. It is conceded that, if the bed thus passed to the State, the defendants have succeeded to the State's right therein; and the decisions and statutes of the State brought to our attention show that the concession is rightly made."
Click here, US v Holt State Bank, to read the actual ruling.
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