From the Chairman

By Pat Doroff

Wow, what a strange winter! This is one we’ll remember for a long time, and not just because of the weather. In the midst of one of the most incredible ice fishing bites on Mille Lacs Lake, sportsmen were delivered another blow by “treaty fisheries management” (TFM) when this past February, it was announced that anglers would be looking at another two-inch harvestable slot of 14-16 inches at Mille Lacs next year and probably for the next three years!

As was announced in our last issue, PERM, through the Landowners, hired a biologist to review the data and make some recommendations on how to fix what everyone, except some folks in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, believes is a failed attempt to try to manage the Mille Lacs fishery in the era of treaty gillnet harvest. We went into this process hoping to work with the DNR to provide support and input on a very difficult issue. We have not been received in a spirit of cooperation. It seems that some in the DNR are unwilling to take a fresh look at how the process works at Mille Lacs. Now they are circling the wagons in an effort to protect the status quo. It was not our intention to have to take our case to the public via the media and legislature, but unless the DNR becomes more open to a common sense approach to managing the Mille Lacs fishery, we will have no choice but to ask the Legislature for hearings on the matter. Please read the information in this issue about what our biologist, Dick Sternberg, a former DNR biologist, has found through his research. It is quite scary. It seems the current system of TFM is based on incomplete data with a high margin for error and unproven computer models. That results in harvest slot limits that focus all the fishing pressure on a narrow window of the population, and could be leading to a collapse of the fishery!

For a complete copy of Dick’s report, please check out our web site at www.perm.org or send $5.00 to cover printing, shipping and handling, and we will mail you a printed and bound copy. Just ask for Treaty Management - Threat to the Mille Lacs Sportfishery. We need to put the brakes on the current system of TFM and we believe Dick has come up with a common sense approach that will be better from a biological standpoint, as well as more palatable to fishermen and better for the sportfishing economy. We need to make our voices heard on this issue. Call your elected representatives in St. Paul. Call the DNR. Make this an issue in the coming elections. Tell everyone we need to adopt Dick Sternberg’s common sense approach to managing Mille Lacs Lake!

How about a big thank you to the members of the Mille Lacs County Board for taking the initiative in settling the reservation issue at Mille Lacs. I am really excited about this one. Remember back in the early 90’s when the Mille Lacs Band threatened state legislators during hearings on the 1837 Treaty settlement? They said something to the effect that, if you don’t accept this settlement offer, we are going to sue you (the State of Minnesota) on the 1855 Treaty, and it’s going to be much worse than this. Well, wouldn’t it be ironic if this 1855 Treaty reservation boundary issue eventually leads to the reversal of the 1837 Treaty hunting and fishing rights case? Mille Lacs County has included the Indian Claims Commission Act as one of their arguments. If the courts uphold the County’s position this could set the precedent needed to finally win the 1837 case!

We need your support now more than ever. Recent events, starting with PERM’s role in the victory in the Atkinson v. Shirley case at the Supreme Court last year, seem to indicate the pendulum is swinging in our direction. Let’s push on to the next victory!