"As controversial legislation to remove dams in the Klamath Basin awaits congressional approval, the right to manage one of the river’s main tributaries and its most important salmon stream will soon be restored to the Yurok Tribe.
This month, some 6,479 acres along the middle reach of Blue Creek will be transferred out of Green Diamond Resource Company’s ownership as part of a plan to buy the entire 47,000-acre watershed and return it to Native American stewardship. Once the deal goes through, the Yurok Tribe will manage about 30,500 acres around Blue Creek, all acquired since 2011 through a partnership with Portland-based non-profit Western Rivers Conservancy.
Using a complex financing scheme, the conservancy will receive and hold the latest parcels for a seven-year period before selling to the Yurok Tribe, which takes over land management from the outset.
“It’s an awesome feeling to know that something so beautiful is coming home,” Yurok Tribal Chairperson Thomas O’Rourke recently told the Triplicate. “We have for thousands, if not tens of thousands of years, successfully managed our land in a responsible way.”
Blue Creek pumps through the heart of more than a half-million acres once occupied by Yurok people before U.S. conquest began in the 1840s. As a sovereign nation, the tribe’s constitution calls for it to “reclaim the Tribal land base within the reservation and enlarge the reservation boundaries to the maximum extent possible within the Ancestral Lands.”
“Blue Creek is the very seed to the ecosystem. From there, we can grow it out again. We can use this to study and to learn from. It’s still very much intact, the way that it historically was, prior to the disruption by man and by logging practices,” O’Rourke said."
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This story appeared in the December 4, 2014 edition of The Del Norte Triplicate