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Tribes discussing land base options for water pact. Private timber or acquiring national forest land an option
 Herald and News by LACEY JARRELL 4/16/15
     The Klamath Tribes are still searching for a land base to fill the void left by the sale of the Mazama Forest. “Hopefully we’ll be able to find a replacement for the Mazama Forest and move forward,” said Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry. “I’m optimistic.”

   He said options may include purchasing any available private timber land or acquiring land within the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

   In February, the hard-won Klamath Water Recovery and Economic Restoration Act was jeopardized after a Singapore-based company purchased 197,000 acres of land in Klamath and Deschutes counties.

   The tract included the 90,000-acre Mazama Forest, which was a key benefit the Klamath Tribes   bargained for in the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.

   Gentry said the Tribes contacted the new owner, who communicated the land is not for sale.

   Now, stakeholders, including state and federal representatives, are discussing several other land acquisition options.

   “Rep. Walden is still working with Sen. Jeff Merkley and many in the Basin on finding a viable solution, including practical alternatives for the Mazama Forest. That continues to be a work in progress,” Andrew Malcolm, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., wrote in an email.
According to Gentry, the Tribes hope to acquire land within the boundary of the former Klamath Tribes reservation. Gentry could not say if the land base being discussed in negotiations will be comparable in size to the 90,000-acre Mazama Forest.

   “For the Klamath Tribes, restoring their tribal forest has been a key component of this solution. While nothing has been finalized at this point, we are continuing to work towards a viable alternative to the Mazama forest for restoring tribal lands, and will keep working towards a long-term solution that delivers for the region,” Martina McLennan, deputy communications director for Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., wrote in an email.

   Gentry said tribal members are seeking culturally significant land that will allow them to exercise treaty rights, and that will provide economic opportunity. Ideally, the Tribes would like to acquire land near the Mazama Mill site, east of Highway 97 and south of Military Crossing Road, Gentry said.

   Gentry said he hopes to present land acquisition options to tribal members at an April 25 general council meeting.

   Contact Lacey Jarrell by email or follow her on Twitter @LMJatHandN.



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