Yuroks seek $20 million state loan for land
John Driscoll The Times-Standard April 15, 2009
The Yurok Tribe has applied for a $20 million no-interest loan
from the state that could secure the first part of a two-stage
land deal to significantly broaden its current holdings.
The tribe last fall entered into an agreement with Green Diamond
Resource Co. that gave it an option to purchase up to 47,000 acres
in two phases. In its application to the State Water Resources
Control Board, the Yurok Tribe offers to contribute $5 million
from tax credits made available to it through an organization that
helps acquire forest land in rural Northern California.
The State Revolving Fund loan would help pay for the first part of
the anticipated deal, including land in the Cappell and Pecwan
watersheds, totaling 22,500 acres. The land would be maintained
for sustainable forestry operations, according to the tribe's
”We're hoping we can get the green light and move forward with
this project,” said Yurok Tribe policy analyst Troy Fletcher.
“We've set a working timeline of June 30.”
The tribe and Green Diamond have been talking about a land deal
for more than 15 years. The one currently on the table in the
agreement would expand the tribe's land base by 74 square miles in
its ancestral territory once the second phase -- 26,500 acres in
the Blue Creek area -- is complete. Little, if any, logging would
occur in the Blue Creek area, the tribe says, as its importance is
Helping with the transaction is Western Rivers Conservancy, which
will buy the land from Green Diamond and sell it to the tribe
under the four-year agreement. An appraisal of the project is
still under way, Fletcher said. Fletcher said that the
zero-interest loan is a reasonable and prudent option at a time
when there are not abundant funds available to seek for such
The tribe says in its application that the purchase of the 22,500
acres would prevent sediment from logging and road construction
and maintenance from getting into streams and the Klamath River.
The tribe would use a lighter touch forestry style, using
selective instead of clear cutting and selling carbon credits to
The loan the Yurok Tribe is seeking has a 30-year term. The $5
million match from the tribe comes through tax credits obtained by
Portland, Ore.-based Ecotrust and passed on to the tribe. Those
New Markets Tax Credits were created by the Community Renewal Tax
Relief Act of 2000, according to the tribe's application, and are
meant to encourage investments in low-income communities.
The Yurok Tribe's reservation is currently a narrow strip a mile
wide on either side of the Klamath River from its mouth to
Weitchpec. The new lands, when acquired, could eventually expand
the reservation, a process that would have to go through the U.S.
Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Green Diamond Timberland Investments Manager Dan Opalach said that
a land deal of some sort has been in the works for years, and has
nothing to do with the current economic downturn. He added that
it's impressive that the tribe may be able to secure substantial
funding in the present economy.
”We are very hopeful that it will come together, some portion of
the transaction, in June,” Opalach said.
State Water Resources Control Board spokesman Dave Clegern said
that the agency is working closely with the tribe, and will be
meeting with tribal representatives this week on the matter.
”We realize they have a unique opportunity here with this
property,” Clegern said, “and we're moving ahead with this
application as quickly as we can.”
Bill Dann with Natural Resources Management in Eureka said that
it's possible the value of the timber on the land is down due to
the weakness of the market, but that the land value itself is
likely to have remained largely unchanged. The company performs
timberland appraisals but is not involved with the one ongoing on
Green Diamond land.
In fact, land bought for timber management or conservation
purposes is often still appreciating, Dann said. Trusts and timber
investment groups continue to buy for the long term, he said, even
if they have lowered expectations on returns.
The tribe is scheduled to give a presentation to the North Coast
Regional Water Quality Control Board at its meeting in Fortuna on
April 23 at the River Lodge. The meeting starts at 9 a.m.
John Driscoll can be reached at 441-0504 or firstname.lastname@example.org