It may be a long shot, but the Confederated
Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw want 95,000 acres of
national forest, an area larger than Portland, as compensation for
land stolen over 150 years ago.
In 1855, the
western Oregon tribes made a deal with the federal government: In
exchange for 1.6 million acres of tribal land, the United States
promised a new chunk of land and a large sum of money. Congress
never came through on its end of the
"This is an issue of righting a wrong,"
says Francis W. Somday II, a tribal administrator for the nearly
700-member tribes. "Self-sufficiency has eluded those tribes in the
U.S. who have no land base."
Somday says getting
a piece of the Siuslaw National Forest returned could create jobs
and income for impoverished tribal members. If the ancestral
territory is transferred, the tribes vow to manage the forest under
the federally mandated Northwest Forest Plan. That means they could
log some trees in order to preserve old growth and make $1 million
a year in profit.
While local environmentalists
sympathize with the tribes' hardships, some say transferring this
specific acreage is a bad idea. David Bayles of Pacific Rivers
Council says this forest is a perfect candidate for restoring
watersheds in order to save endangered salmon. According to Bayles,
this will cost a lot of money and is not likely to generate the
dollars desperately needed by the
Furthermore, it will take an act of
Congress to transfer the land. Oregon congressmen say they won't
carry a bill until the tribe proves there is local support.
Although the tribe has held over 160 public meetings, Oregon's
Democratic Rep. Peter DeFazio says he plans to shelve the issue
until next year, since there is less than a month left in the