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Senator Wyden's Town Hall Meeting,

transcribed quotes taken from videotape by KBC (jdk)

1/11/04  Approximately 80 people showed up at Oregon Institute of Technology to hear what the Democratic Senator had to say at his annual town hall meeting.  His plane was late, but he spent a little over an hour answering questions. Many of the concerns pertained to the proposed tribal reacquisition of the Winema-Fremont National Forest.  Some of the interaction was as follows:

Rich Brown, an Upper Basin resident, asked if Senate Bill 578 was still in the works, which would give tribal sovereignty more power.  Wyden said he was not aware of that bill.

Wyden spoke of health care and prescription drugs for the elderly.

One woman stated, "I'm a property owner here, and if any proposal should be made it would effect me because I have 7 miles of driveway that goes through this area.  How do you feel about the fact that I'm not being represented in these talks with the Interior and the tribes? If there's any decision on a proposal or anything decided there, it effects me personally, monetarily, physically, as well as thousands of other property owners here, and we are not being allowed to have any input at all in these talks.  There are a few land owners who are out of the area, large landowners, that are talking, and there are tribal members talking, and there's the government talking, but private property owners are not being represented in any way, shape or form.  What do you think about it?"

Wyden, "If I was the Secretary of the Interior I'd do it differently.  If I was the Secretary of Interior, I'd have people actively involved in those discussions."

Another woman, "is this something that the government can just arbitrarily do is give that land back to the Indian Tribe?"

Wyden, "I have not seen any proposal...It's a question of trying to build a consensus for a responsible approach to an area that has great ramifications for the community.  When I get this proposal, what I intend to do is make sure that the people in this room and the people throughout this area have a chance to be heard, that's my pledge."

Debbie Brown, "...if you can explain to me how that is right, after they get   paid in 1954 (the Indians) they've gotten paid ever sense.  She explained what the Tribes said their plan is, and how, besides the 690,000 acres, they want 7 to 9 million dollars per year for restoration.  "If you guys want to pay me for my property and maintenance and all the upkeep and all the building that I want to do on it, then fine then you can pay the tribe if you're going to do it for me and everyone else in this room, then go for it.  Otherwise....it's going to be my tax dollars being spent on someone else again.  This self-sufficient nation is not being self sufficient." Applause...Why is our government having private meetings making swaps with our forest land that we white people are not allowed to own.  I can not buy forest land but the tribe can take it?"  applause.

Ed Bartell, " I'm President of Water Users in Sprague River, and we are not allowed to sit at the table.  There's an organization called Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust which has received three million dollars in federal funds.  They have exclusive water marketing agreements where , if somebody wants to market, you have to go through them.  You can't market directly to the government at a lower price.  And now this same organization has set up these closed door meetings to try to get a settlement."

Wyden, "I think these meetings have been organized by the Secretary of Interior, so she is doing something I wouldn't be doing."

Bartell, "There's two sets of meetings, there's meetings with Bill Bettenberg, and Bettenberg has also been involved in these private meetings."

Wyden, "Is he representing Secretary of the Interior?"

Bartell, "I believe so."

Wyden , "That's my point."

Bartell, "...They were planning to get a legislative package together by the end of last year--that was in the paper and we have internal documentation-- to put this deal behind the backs of the community and that's why you see this reaction....I would love to have a negotiated settlement.  But this is not a negotiated settlement. This is conspiring against the community, that's what it is."

Wyden, "Too many decisions that effect Oregon communities are made behind closed doors in lots of places that are far distant from the people who are most effected.  That's why I'm here..."

Wyden proceeded to discuss illegal immigration.  Regarding deporting illegals, he said that, "If today you say only people who are here legally are going to do these tasks, you will basically make your own bed in your motel room, you'll pick the crops in the fields, and you'll probably wash the dishes in a lot of the restaurants..."

He went on to tell about his support for the Healthy Forest Initiative and discussed prescription medicine for the elderly, and discussed Arafat.


Dan Keppen of Klamath Water Users, and  Bill Bettenberg of the Department of the Interior were not present. However the quotes from them regarding the tribal land acquisition were:

Keppen from Herald and News commentary, "At the Shilo Inn meetings, we are not negotiating agreements or settlements, and none of the irrigators have held themselves out as representing the agricultural community. The community should be assured that any sort of proposed settlement can never be implemented without congressional action, which will require a great degree of local and regional support. There is simply no chance of a "secret deal" being cut on this matter."

Bettenberg from Herald and News article, "He said the Interior Department is not going to cut any unilateral deals in the water issue. Any deal made with the Tribes needs to be supported by other interests in the Basin. At the end of the day, we have to have something where the water users, the Tribes and the broader community are all on board," he said.

For more information, articles, tours, and quotes by some of the discussion participants regarding the Tribal Proposal for National Forest acquisition, go to TALKS PAGE..






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