From the Chairman

by Pat Doroff

It sure has been an interesting and busy summer for PERM. With all the anticipation at Mille Lacs Lake over treaty fisheries management (TFM), and the awesome walleye bite and its related consequences, it seemed everyone was talking about the situation at Minnesota’s premier walleye lake.

Former DNR biologist Dick Sternberg’s report on the Mille Lacs fishery and the effects of TFM created quite a stir. From the major print, radio and television media, to the DNR; from Commissioner Garber on down through the fisheries department; and from the State Legislature, which held hearings on the subject, to the candidates seeking the office of governor and attorney general. All this focus on what can and needs to be done to protect the fishery and sportfishing were made possible by PERM’s hard work. PERM’s funding enabled Sternberg to provide the biological foundation which is necessary to build a consensus for change.

It now appears that many people, including some top officials in the DNR, agree on the nature of the problem. The Minnesota DNR has been underestimating the fish population and thereby setting excessively low safe harvest levels. This scenario has contributed to an imbalance of the fishery, which in turn, has led to the collapse of all baitfish in the lake. Most recent comment from the DNR Commissioner and top fisheries personnel, indicates they want to take a new approach at Mille Lacs. They recognize we can not continue under the current management system. The State must assert its role as the caretaker of our public natural resources. They must listen to, and try to accommodate the needs and concerns of the Ojibwe Bands, but they can not allow TFM to turn fisheries management and citizens’ lives on their heads. In the end, the State must do what is right for the resource and all citizens, not whatever it takes to appease the demands and threats of the Ojibwe Bands.

Rep. Bill Haas will soon be introducing legislation to include key legislators in what had previously been private meetings between the Bands and the DNR. The legislation would aid lawmakers in their oversight function of the DNR, and give citizens a greater role in how this important public natural resource is managed.

While change in bureaucracy comes at a snail’s pace, I think we have laid solid groundwork for a new and much more “common sense” approach to how things will be done at Mille Lacs Lake in the near future.

As you might guess, all this has cost PERM a great deal of time and money. We desperately need your support to continue to fund this ongoing effort. If you individually, or your local sportsman’s club, can make a financial contribution at this time, it will be greatly appreciated. We also need more active members and more volunteers. If you can help,please contact someone on the “Get Involved” list on page 4 of this issue!

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It looks like we derailed the locomotive that was rushing the Indian tribe’s proposal for full recognition of tribal court rulings in state courts in Minnesota. After our initial road blocks we were able to create enough attention to the issue that important groups like the County Attorney’s Association and the Sheriff’s Association came out on record against the proposal. For all citizens, especially those who live or work on Indian reservations, this was an important victory. Please read the article in this issue on Full Faith & Credit for all the details.

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Finally, a few words about the reservation boundary dispute with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Things are going as planned for Mille Lacs County in this lawsuit. The County has the full support of PERM, and we are very optimistic that the County will prevail. Our Fall Auction was sponsored together with the Mille Lacs County Tea Party this year, and I’m proud to say it was a huge success. The proceeds will be forwarded to Mille Lacs County’s special fund set up for the boundary dispute. Thanks to the Tea Party for doing the Fall Auction with us this year. And most of all, thank you for all your group has done to call attention to this issue, educate the public, and help Mille Lacs County win this case for the citizens of the area and all residents of Minnesota’s former Indian reservations!