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Yurok Tribe Submits MLPA and Marine Resource Plan
by Dan Bacher
Saturday Sep 17th, 2011 2:19 AM
The plan states, "The Yurok Tribe requests the Commission to adopt option one based upon the following legal, factual and historical record submitted on behalf of the Yurok Tribe. Adoption would be for concurrence with the Yurok MLPA Marine Resources plan which provides for a non‐commercial non‐exclusive right of the Yurok Tribe to continue traditional, ceremonial, religious, and cultural harvesting as has been practiced continuously for 10,000 plus years or time immemorial."

Photo: Members of the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk Tribes walk down a path in Patrick’s Point State Park on June 18 after gathering seaweed, mussels and clams to protest proposed restrictions on coastal gathering proposed under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. Photo by Matt Mais, Yurok Tribe.
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Yurok Tribe Submits MLPA and Marine Resource Plan

by Dan Bacher

North Coast Indian Tribes, along with conservationists, fishermen, and environmental justice advocates, have been vocal critics of the state of California's failure to acknowledge tribal gathering rights in marine protected areas created under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to date.

Over 300 people including members of 50 Native American nations and their allies peacefully took over the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg on July 21, 2010 to protest the violation of sovereign gathering rights under the MLPA initiative.

Spurred by this protest and other direct actions, the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force was for the first time forced to approve language supporting tribal gathering rights, language that was adopted in the unified proposal developed by fishing, environmental, business and tribal stakeholders. A large contingent of North Coast residents also supported "Option Zero," a proposal to keep existing fishing regulations and existing marine protected areas, including the massive Rockfish Conservation Zone, intact.

Two proposals submitted at the California Fish and Game Commission meeting in Redding on September 15 - one by the Yurok Tribe and the other by the InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council - are currently under consideration by the Commission to resolve the tribal gathering issue.

The Yurok Tribe submitted a "MLPA and Marine Resource Plan" providing a factual record of the tribe's marine resource use (http://www.yuroktribe.org/government/tribalattorney/documents/2011.08.29_YurokTribe-FactualRecordtoCAFGC.pdf).

The Commission voted 4 to 1 on June 29 to adopt Tribal Option 1 as the "preferred alternative" within the North Coast Study Region, to allow tribal gathering to continue within proposed State Marine Conservation Areas (SMCAs) by federally recognized tribes who, within sixty (60) days, submitted a "factual record with sufficient documentation confirming current or historical use within the proposed SMCAs."

This option would require tribal members sixteen or older to show, on the request of a game warden, a state recreational fishing license in addition to a federally recognized Tribal ID - and be limited by state regulations.

In a press release sent after the June 29 meeting, Thomas O'Rourke, Chairman of the Yurok Tribe, slammed the decision for "failing to protect traditional gathering rights."

“I cannot accept the part about the fishing license," said O'Rourke. "The Fish and Game has taken an unjust and patronizing step. No one can separate these resources from our culture.”

The September 15 plan, including language regarding the substitution of a Tribal fishing license for a state fishing license and a SMCA designation for Redding Rock, was the Tribe's response to the Commission's action.

"The Yurok Tribe currently issues identification cards to our tribal members," the plan states. "We are planning to adopt a Marine Resource Ordinance which is comparable to the existing identification card system of our in‐river fishery regulatory system."

In a cover letter to the plan, Marjorie Buckskin, Vice-Chairperson of the Yurok Tribe, requested the Commission to adopt Option 1 and concur with the implementation of the MLPA with the Yurok Marine Resource Plan. She also requested that the Commission adopt as the preferred CEQA project a SMCA designation for Redding Rock, "an area which holds tremendous religious value to the Yuroks."

"The Yurok Tribe has provided as an integral part of our proposal a mutual reservation of rights so as to protect the legal rights of the Tribe, the State of California and the Commission. Our plan is non-exclusive, allowing others to also use the resources," she said.

The plan would be implemented in stages as a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is negotiated, various State regulations are changed, scientific experiments are approved, and in some cases legislation is enacted.

For example, there is no provision for the recreational/Native American take of barnacles in current Fish and Game regulations. The harvest of barnacles will require a future change in the regulations by the Fish and Game Commission based on a subsequent public hearing and CEQA analysis.

The plan also notes that any substitution of a Tribal license for a State license cannot be agreed to by the Fish and Game Commission until such time as there is a legislative amendment.

The plan will be implemented in stages as provided for by applicable federal and state law. In addition, the plan provides for adaptive management.

"It is further understood, that scientific surveys may affect the desired implementation and necessitate adaptive management changes," the document states.

"The Yurok Tribe requests the Commission to adopt option one based upon the following legal, factual and historical record submitted on behalf of the Yurok Tribe. Adoption would be for concurrence with the Yurok MLPA Marine Resources plan which provides for a non‐commercial non‐exclusive right of the Yurok Tribe to continue traditional, ceremonial, religious, and cultural harvesting as has been practiced continuously for 10,000 plus years or time immemorial," the Tribe concludes.

Scoping meetings scheduled for North Coast environmental document

The California Fish and Game Commission will be reviewing and potentially adopting proposed regulations for marine protected areas (MPAs) in state waters, developed under the privately funded MLPA Initiative, within the northern California coast region stretching from Point Arena to the California/Oregon border.

Pursuant to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) will prepare a CEQA equivalent draft environmental document for the Commission regarding the new marine protected areas, according to an announcement from Horizon Water and Environment, LLC on behalf of the DFG.

The environmental document and more information on the proposed project are posted on the Department's MLPA website: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa. Comments are due no later than October 14, 2011.

The Department will hold four public scoping meetings on the development of the draft environmental document. The dates, times, and exact locations of the scoping meetings are as follows:

1. Crescent City - Monday, September 26, 2011 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. at the Del Norte County Board Chamber Building (981 H Street, Crescent City, CA 95531);

2. Fortuna - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. at the Fortuna River Lodge (1800 Riverwalk Dr., Fortuna, CA 95540);

3. Fort Bragg - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. at the Dana Grey Elementary School (1197 Chestnut St., Fort Bragg, CA 95437); and

4. Sacramento - Tuesday, October 4, 2011 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. at the Sacramento Department of Health Care Services and Department of Health Building (1500 Capital Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95814)

The response relative to the scope of the environmental document must be sent at the earliest possible date, but postmarked no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 14, 2011 in order for your comments to be considered in the environmental document.

Please send responses to this Notice of Preparation to:

"MLPA North Coast CEQA Scoping Comments"
California Department of Fish and Game
c/o Horizon Water and Environment
P.O. Box 2727
Oakland, CA 94602

Comments may also be submitted via email to: MLPAcomments [at] HorizonWater.com. Your comments should include your name, address, and daytime telephone number so a representative of the Department can contact you if clarifications regarding your comments are required.

MLPA Initiative Background:

The Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) is a law, signed by Governor Gray Davis in 1999, designed to create a network of marine protected areas off the California Coast. However, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 created the privately-funded MLPA “Initiative” to “implement” the law, effectively eviscerating the MLPA.

The “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, water pollution, military testing, wave and wind energy projects, corporate aquaculture and all other uses of the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Forces that oversaw the implementation of “marine protected areas” included a big oil lobbyist, marina developer, real estate executive and other individuals with numerous conflicts of interest. Catherine Reheis Boyd, the president of the Western States Petroleum Association who is pushing for new oil drilling off the California coast, served as the chair of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast.

The MLPA Initiative operated through a controversial private/public “partnership" funded by the shadowy Resources Legacy Fund Foundation. The Schwarzenegger administration, under intense criticism by grassroots environmentalists, fishermen and Tribal members, authorized the implementation of marine protected areas under the initiative through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the foundation and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Tribal members, fishermen, grassroots environmentalists, human rights advocates and civil liberties activists have slammed the MLPA Initiative for the violation of numerous state, federal and international laws. Critics charge that the initiative, privatized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004, has violated the Bagley-Keene Open Meetings Act, Brown Act, California Administrative Procedures Act, American Indian Religious Freedom Act and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

MLPA and state officials refused to appoint any tribal scientists to the MLPA Science Advisory Team (SAT), in spite of the fact that the Yurok Tribe alone has a Fisheries Department with over 70 staff members during the peak fishing season, including many scientists. The MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force also didn’t include any tribal representatives until 2010 when one was finally appointed to the panel.