January 30, 2018

It’s good to hear Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin admitting to “declining revenue from gaming,” which she says will come back when the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population recovers. The link to walleye population was made in her January 9th State of the Band address.

Wonder if she is aware of how much Mille Lacs businesses and local economy have suffered for the same reason. There is a lot of controversy over whether the Mille Lacs walleye population is in decline or not. There is no question about the decline in the number of anglers from the loss of Mille Lacs as a premier angling destination. Angler decline is directly related to the mess made by DNR/Tribal “co-management.”

Erik Jacobson, Garrison MN, writes that the since the lake “is loaded with walleyes–of all sizes,” The problem is that “regulations have been too stringent for too long.” (Mille Lacs Messenger Mailbag, “Letter of the Week,” Wednesday, January 24.)

He asks that regulations keep up with the actual state of the walleye population in the lake. If “walleye fishing will stay open the entire open water season and anglers can take home some fish,” then “Everyone in this area will benefit.”

Read Erik Jacobson’s “Gaming and Walleye Population” analysis below.

Douglas J. Meyenburg, President, PERM

Next MLFAC Meeting

The next MLFAC meeting has been rescheduled for February 5th. But the location has not been determined. Last minute designation will likely limit the public’s attendance, so we encourage you to attend. PERM will post and email the location as soon as we find out.

PERM’s regularly scheduled meeting will be postponed one week (to February 12) so that PERM Board members can attend the MLFAC meeting.

Technical Meeting

On the next day, February 6th, will be the DNR – Tribal “Technical Meeting” when the walleye quotas for 2018 are supposed to be set. If the DNR doesn’t pick up on anything coming out of the MLFAC meetings, the Technical Meeting will probably be pretty short, since most of the quota-setting details were locked in for the next three years by the secretly negotiated “Consensus: Mille Lacs Fishery Harvest Plan, 2017-2020.”


Remember that the evening of February 6th is set aside (starting at 7pm) for precinct caucuses across the state. All citizens are invited to take the first step in deciding who our candidates are and what your party stands for. You can also offer resolutions for new planks in your party’s platform.

Real (new) leadership from the Governor’s office, Attorney General’s office, and the Legislature may be the only thing that can break the logjam at the Mille Lacs fishery.

Whether you attend or not, plan on asking your candidates questions about where they stand on the issues–for example, “What, specifically, will you do to end the stalemate caused by the failure of co-management of the Mille Lacs fishery?”

For more information and to learn where your precinct caucus meets, check out the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website here. (If you just need the location, go to Caucus Finder here.)

Gaming and walleye population

Messenger Mailbag -Letter of the week Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I read with interest the article in the Jan. 17 issue of the Mille Lacs Messenger covering Mille Lacs Band Chief Executive Melanie Benjamin’s State of the Band address. Of the many important topics she spoke of, as a fisherman, one in particular caught my eye. She said one of the challenges that the Band is facing is “declining revenue from gaming” but she expects the profits to recover when the Mille Lacs Lake walleye population recovers. Which she said “appears to be right on track.” I couldn’t agree more, it’s not only right on track, it’s been on track for a number of years now. So if the population is admittedly on track why aren’t the regulations keeping pace?

Last summer, anglers were only allowed to fish 78 days of a normal 200-plus day season. The lake was closed to walleye fishing the other 122-plus days of the season. On top of that, it’s been two and a half years since open water anglers have been able to keep a walleye. Enough is enough already. Seems everybody except the DNR and the GLIFWC know the lake is loaded with walleyes – of all sizes. And now, for the umpteenth year in a row, winter anglers can keep only one fish (which feels like a gift) and the slot has been set at an unprecedented 20- to 22-inch size range, once again protecting the hallowed year class of 2013. That year class appears to be in the high teens lengthwise right now, and are quickly on their way to another untouchable size.

If that year class continues to be protected, it is going to grow into one the biggest eating machines yet and the cannibalism that has plagued Mille Lacs for years and years – when there is a low natural forage base – will continue. The good news is, right now the lake is loaded with small perch. Every place I’ve put the camera down this winter there are scads of them. The lake is also full of good size tullibees. Muskie fishing last fall, I snagged so many it actually became a nuisance. So in my opinion, there is a lot of natural forage in the lake at this time.

So if indeed the Band’s gaming revenues are suffering, it’s not from a lack of walleyes in the lake. It’s because regulations have been too stringent for too long. Regulations dictate whether fishermen that want to take a meal home will come or not–it’s really that simple. Loosen up the regulations and everyone will benefit–including the lake. So I ask you Ms. Benjamin, why don’t you make a suggestion–or better yet, an executive order, if possible, to GLIFWC to suggest/agree to a more liberal allocation so the walleye fishing will stay open the entire open water season and anglers can take home some fish? Everyone in this area will benefit.

Erik Jacobson, Garrison

Badly misplayed ‘race card’

By Joe Fellegy Outdoor News, Vol. 50, No. 43

The Star Tribune’s Oct. 1 Outdoors section carried a Tony Kennedy Q&A with Bradley Harrington Jr., who became the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s DNR commissioner earlier this year. Amazingly, the Strib facilitates the racism smear against Mille Lacs-connected resorters, anglers, and others who rightfully dispute the horrendous political state-tribal co-management of Mille Lacs – with no hard follow-up questions!

(Co-management refers to Minnesota’s DNR plus eight Chippewa DNRs under the Wisconsin-based Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission umbrella.)

The article’s intro highlighted the theme of “anti-Indian racial tension.” And Kennedy asked, “Do you think vocal opponents of the joint management system have a racist agenda or anti-Indian agenda?” Harrington’s lengthy response included the following: “Many of the most vocal voices clearly have an anti-Indian agenda rooted in racism. These are the same people who threw rocks at Native Americans exercising their rights in the 1990s. The recent ‘Circle the Wagons’ rally (where protesters in boats encircled Gov. Mark Dayton while he promoted Mille Lacs bass fishing) is a perfect example of blatant racism at play on Mille Lacs.”

Really? Which “vocal voices” and protesters? Citizen members of the Mille Lacs Fisheries Advisory Committee? Proper Economic Resource Management, the fund-raising arm of the landowners in the anti-Minnesota 1837 treaty rights case?

Hmm. I attended numerous PERM fund-raisers where the group’s leaders and attorneys routinely reminded citizens that their cause was about law and resource management, not about race or opposing “the Indians.” PERM, still active on tribal-related issues today, continues to embrace that non-racist theme.

I recently asked Minnesota DNR personnel if they’ve witnessed anti-Indian racist incidents at monthly MLFAC meetings or at other Mille Lacs issue sessions. No replies from Commissioner Tom Landwehr, Fisheries Chief Don Pereira, Regional Fisheries Manager Brad Parsons, or the DNR Fish and Wildlife Division’s Policy and Planning Consultant Katie Clower, who facilitates MLFAC meetings and corresponds with members. Honest responses would say no racism!

Know that with tribal-related issues, the race card is misplayed to silence and discredit those posing relevant questions about high-impact policies, such as treaty management at Mille Lacs and elsewhere.

As the late Chippewa journalist Bill Lawrence (1939-2010) reminded his non-Indian friends: Always distinguish between “the Indians,” meaning the people, and what he called the modern “Indian industry” – a rich and super-powerful corporate-legal-political force.

Is there a principle in government, politics, journalism, and academics that exempts modern tribal governments, their resource-management agencies, and state personnel who interact with them, from due scrutiny and accountability?

Hey, they impact public policy, the public treasury, and the well-being of Minnesota resources and people! What they do is fair game for questions, discussion, debate, and criticism every day of the year.