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River Access on Reservation Denied

Fishing Guides at Attention


The Trinity River, world famous for Steelhead fishing, flows through the Hoopa Valley. The Hoopa Valley Tribe recently blocked river access on the reservation to non-tribal members in an effort to curb a vandalism, littering, and squatting problem. Fishermen hope to meet with the tribe soon to discuss a solution. / Photo by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune

by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune December 28, 2011

A misunderstanding about river access on the Hoopa Reservation has a handful of fishing guides reeling with questions.

At first glance, a few fishermen interpreted a sign posted at Tish Tang Campground to mean that the Hoopa Tribe placed a prohibition on non-Tribal member fishing on the reservation. A flurry of phone calls from concerned fishermen began to flood Willow Creek-based river guide and Chamber of Commerce board member, Ed Duggan.

“The reservation has always been open access for fishing as far back as I can remember,” Duggan said. “There’s people who have been fishing down there since the ‘40s. We’ve got people that come from all over the state and some from out of state to fish for steelhead.”

The signs actually say No Trespass. According to Hoopa Tribal Chairman, Leonard Masten Jr., the tribe never intended to prohibit recreational fishing by non-tribal members. They intended to block river access on their private property in an effort to decrease the amount of vandalism, littering, and squatting that occurs on tribal property.

The tribe also complains about recreational fishermen being disrespectful and refusing to comply with the Hoopa Tribe’s fisheries department surveys, such as creel census, one of the many forms of fish counting used to measure harvest and predict future run sizes.

Masten asked why the tribe should allow fishermen to access the river using tribal property when some fishermen lack respect for the tribe? Duggan said the guides are not the problem explaining that a litany of similar problems occur on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands—lands fishing guides are accustomed to paying fees to access.

Duggan hopes a group of fishing guides and others who regularly use river access points on the reservation can have a sit down meeting with the chairman and tribal council to resolve the issue. He said, “Why point fingers at each other when one or two stupid people make a mistake?”

Another well-known fishing guide who fishes the Trinity during October, John Klar said, “If you have one bad kid, you don’t clear the classroom.”
The signs are posted at several locations on the reservation including two of the more popular river access roads, Tish Tang Campground and Red Rock. At Tish Tang the sign is posted on a tree next to a locked gate.

The sign reads, “No Trespass, No River Access, Private Property, closed to all non-Hoopa Tribal Members, Notice. It also goes on to cite excerpts from the Tribe’s Title 15—Trespassing Ordinance.

The tribe’s law clearly states that tribal lands within the boundaries of the reservation are to be managed by the tribe for the benefit of its members. Masten said that others who wish to use the lands for various purposes are welcomed to do so after obtaining a permit from the tribe. Details about how to obtain a permit specific to river access were not available at press time.

Owner of Bigfoot Rafting Company, Marc Rowley, uses the Tish Tang access road daily during the peak of rafting season. He’s in favor of paying a fee to access the river on the reservation. “It’s just part of doing business. It’s nothing unusual to me. I’ve always been a champion of getting everything in order and keeping an eye on it,” he said. “Having people patrolling and keeping a lid on everything is a good thing.”

Rowley brought the subject to the Willow Creek Community Services District meeting last week. He posed a question to the WCCSD about whether or not an agreement existed between the USFS, WCCSD, and the Hoopa Tribe to provide river access at the Tish Tang Campground following a land transfer between the USFS and the Hoopa Tribe that occurred in 1997.

The TRT did not find a written agreement but has cited the congressional act that transferred the land in a sidebar to this article.

Rowley said that if the closure is permanent it could have “huge financial implications for Willow Creek, devastatingly huge.”

He hopes that the Hoopa Tribe will consider developing a management plan along the river. “I understand their frustrations. They’re absolutely warranted…I’m hoping we can work with them and they can develop a format to better control this genuine and real problem. I’d like to see a higher level of local organized government involvement.”

Klar, whose most popular guide trip is on the Trinity River, is of similar sentiment. He believes a fee structure or permitting process is a fitting solution to the problem. “There was some disrespect and there was a response. It boils down to a lack of respect from some specific individuals that ruined it for the rest of us,” he said. “I’m in favor of a permitting process facilitated by the tribe. At least then you’ll have some sort of recourse.”

When it comes to tourism in the Klamath Trinity Valley, fishing tops the list of reasons travelers visit the area, bringing with them dollars vital to the struggling economy. Duggan fears the economic repercussions of the tribe’s decision to block river access could be devastating to Hoopa’s economy.

“When people ask me where they can get a bite to eat in Hoopa, I tell them Joe’s Deli makes a good deli sandwich, the Burger Barn makes a great hamburger, or you can go to Laura’s Kitchen and get a hell-of-a good breakfast,” he said. “What happens when that’s gone?”

Ed ‘The Orange Man’ Baker has traveled to Hoopa for 37 years faithfully to fish the Trinity for Steelhead. He can usually be found in downtown Hoopa selling fresh oranges. He uses the money from orange sales to pay for his fishing trips. He brings an R.V. but has also stayed at the Tsewenaldin Inn at times. And before the Tsewenaldin Inn he recalls renting rooms for two weeks at a time at the old Deep Sleep Motel and having an occasional beer at the Hupa Club. “This is a shock to me [the access closure],” he said. “I guess I feel kind of like a home boy since I’ve been coming here for so long. It’s absolutely been a great experience coming here.”

Although tourism provides a seasonal economic boost for the Willow Creek community, that’s arguably not the case in Hoopa. Mike Mularky, the manager of the Hoopa Mini Mart said he rarely, if ever, sees fishing guides at the service station. “You’d think since gas is cheaper here than anywhere else in Humboldt County that we’d see more of the fisherman traffic, but we really don’t,” he said.

Nonetheless, Duggan believes every dollar spent in the area is critical. “This hurts my business because I can’t take my customers down there,” he said. “But it doesn’t kill me, because I have other places we can fish.”

Guided fishing trips on the Trinity River cost about $350 to $400 per day according to Duggan. About $50 of that is spent on shuttling and a smaller fraction is spent on river access elsewhere. Perhaps in the future another portion will be paid to the Hoopa Tribe for access permits.

Guides are hopeful for a meeting with Hoopa Tribal representatives early in 2012.



Hoopa Valley Reservation South Boundary Adjustment Act
Passed in November, 1997 by the 105th Congress

Section 2 Transfer of Lands Within Six Rivers National Forest for Hoopa Valley Tribe

All right, title and interest in and to the lands described in subsection (b) shall hereafter be administered by the Secretary of the Interior and be held in trust by the United States for the Hoopa Valley Tribe. The lands are hereby declared part of the Hoopa Valley Reservation. Upoin the inclusion of such lands in the Hoopa Valley Reservation, Forest Service system roads numbered 8No3 and 7N51 and the Trinity River access road which is a spur off road numbered 7N51, shall be Indian reservation roads, as defined in section 101(a) of title 23 of the United States Code…
[Source: PL 105-79]


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