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 Herald and News: Klamath Falls, Oregon

Meeting about reservation turns testy

Chuck Kimbol Sr., left, talks with Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association, during a meeting at the Beatty Community Center Tuesday.

Published October 22, 2003


BEATTY - A meeting of Klamath Tribes members, irrigators and others that was called to discuss a possible new reservation on national forest land, started with talk about working together.

About 15 minutes later, half of the crowd of about 250 people at the meeting walked out of the Beatty Community Center.

Becky Hyde, a Sprague River irrigator who set up the meeting, asked for people to break into small groups and to tell their concerns to group leaders. Many didn't want to do it.

Terri Mander, who has a ranch on the Sprague River, led the revolt.

"You are treating us like a bunch of children - it should be a forum in front of everyone," she said before heading out the door. "This would make no progress at all."

The people who stayed discussed their concerns in individual groups for about two hours and then shared their lingering questions and realizations with the larger group.

Many said they wanted to know what exactly has been discussed in the last couple of months during informal talks among the Tribes, the Klamath Water Users Association, Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, irrigators above Upper Klamath Lake and others.

Hyde said she has been involved in the talks and set up the meeting so everyone could get a chance to speak.

"The idea is to express our worst fears so we come to the best outcome," she said.

She said many of those who left weren't ready to face their fears yet.

"The people who walked out needed to walk out," she said. "We had a purpose for the meeting, and we had to go on."

Outside, a group of some of those who left huddled by a pickup.

Mander said the event had been billed as a public meeting, but the format turned out to be more like a workshop. She said she wanted a meeting where all participants got to speak to the group as a whole.

Bob Sanders, a Sprague River irrigator, said it was disappointing to see people walk out before they or others really got a chance to say anything.

"I think a lot of concerns were aired out, but I don't think all were answered," he said.

He said many are concerned about how the Klamath Tribes will manage the forests if the federal government gives them the land.

"People are scared," he said. "We are all scared, and that hasn't been answered."

Before many of the questions about the future can be answered, the people involved need to get settled about the past, said John Elliott, Klamath County commissioner.

He said the Tribes, loggers, irrigators, anyone who uses natural resources in the Klamath Basin, need to explain to the others how they got into the situations they are in.

"We need to understand that we are all responsible for where we are," he said.

To then find an understanding of what to do next, people will need to come together and share their concerns, he said.

"It transcends legislation, it transcends litigation - it's getting back to what a handshake meant in the Old West," Elliott said.

Just after the walkout, Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, left the meeting for a while and talked with some of the folks outside. After talking to them, he said it is not productive to have people walk out of meetings.

"It's a little bumpy start, but it's a start," he said.

Joe Hobbes, vice chairman of the Klamath Tribes, said there will probably be many more meetings to answer the many questions about the land deal. He said the Tribes' 100-year forest management plan, to be released in mid-November, should clarify many issues.

"I think that will quell a lot of the concerns," he said.

He said no one knows exactly what will happen in negotiations with the federal government. He said the recent tours of the Klamath Reclamation Project and the Tribes' former reservation and the meeting Tuesday night has helped people get to know each other.

"We are not all going to get all that we want," he said. "We are going to have to share the pain in a lot of the deals."

The Tribes plan to hold a series of public meetings to explain the management plan and answer questions.

Foreman said the first public meeting will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Beatty Community Center.

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