[env-trinity] Resources Secretary Announces Tribal Consultation Policy

Dan Bacher danielbacher at fishsniffer.com
Thu Apr 19 10:12:50 PDT 2012


Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe,  
said, ”After reading this short little description of the California  
Natural Resources Tribal Policy for the departments, I find it  
amazing that while one would think this is a positive step forward  
because it sounds so determined to acknowledge and respect California  
Tribal peoples, it is without any real commitment other than to  


Resources Secretary Announces Tribal Consultation Policy

by Dan Bacher

John Laird, the California Secretary for Natural Resources, on  
Wednesday announced the release of a draft policy directing the  
resources agency and its departments to “increase communication and  
collaboration with California’s Native American tribes.”

The lack of consultation by the agency with tribes on environmental  
programs including the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative,  
Delta Vision, Bay Delta Conservation Plan and other processes has led  
to frequent conflicts between the Tribes and the state. This failure  
to consult has led to many protests, including the peaceful take over  
of an MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Fort Bragg on July 21,  
2010 by over 300 Tribal members and their allies to protect Tribal  
gathering rights.

The draft policy letter is available at: http://resources.ca.gov/docs/ 

A news release from the agency said, “This will help further the  
mission of the California Natural Resources Agency and provide  
meaningful input into the development of regulations, rules and  
policies that may affect tribal communities.”

“Native American tribes have a unique relationship with the  
state’s natural resources,” said Laird. “It is only by engaging  
in open, inclusive and regular communication that the interests of  
California’s tribes will be recognized and understood.”

On Sept. 19, 2011, Governor Jerry Brown issued Executive Order  
B-10-11, which states that “it is the policy of the administration  
that every state agency and department subject to executive control  
is to encourage communication and consultation with California Native  
American tribes.”

The release noted that all California native tribes “have distinct  
cultural, environmental, economic, and public health interests.” The  
Natural Resources Agency and its departments interact frequently with  
tribal communities and are already working closely with them in many  
of these areas. The secretary’s direction is intended to build on  
those existing relationships, and encourage further outreach and  

“Historically, state government and California’s tribes have  
experienced conflict,” Laird said. “I intend to improve the  
relationships between the agency responsible for the state’s wild  
places and the communities that have watched over them for centuries.”

Secretary Laird’s direction aims to “create informed decision  
making where all parties involved share a goal and can reach  
decisions together,” according to the agency. All parties involved  
should encourage respect, shared responsibility, and an open and free  
exchange of information.

Laird noted that the policy “is intended as guidance for employees  
of the Natural Resources Agency and its departments only, and does  
not extend to other government entities.”

Craig Tucker, Klamath Coordinator for the Karuk Tribe, reacted to the  
announcement by stating, “Finally California is developing a policy  
for consulting with tribes. This would have been a great idea before  
initiating things like the corrupt Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA)  
Initiative process!”

“If this policy was in place before the MLPA process started, we  
probably would have realized a better outcome and have avoided the  
litigation that is likely to follow,” said Tucker.
“This is a step in the right direction,” said Tucker. “It is  
ridiculous that tribes have had to wait 150 years for a consultation  
policy from California.”

He added, “One of the complaints by the tribes is that they are  
brought into the process is after the power point presentations are  
made. The Tribes should be brought into processes at the conceptual  
stage – not after the plan is already developed. This new policy  
will help us out.”

“We should give kudos to the Brown administration for taking the  
initiative to develop this policy,” said Tucker.

Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe,  
said she is happy that the Governor is concerned about hearing the  
voices of California Indians, but criticized the draft tribal policy  
document for lacking any real committment to tribes other than  

“After reading this short little description of the California  
Natural Resources Tribal Policy for the departments, I find it  
amazing that while one would think this is a positive step forward  
because it sounds so determined to acknowledge and respect California  
Tribal peoples, it is without any real commitment other than to  
consult,” said Sisk.

“The Winnemem Wintu Tribe has evaluated the consultation processes  
as being highly ineffective,” he stated. “What we do want to see  
is how the Governor will install and use the Articles of the UN DRIP  
to affirm our Indigenous peoples’ rights to ‘free, prior, and  
informed consent.’ I am glad to see that the Governor’s Office is  
concerned about the voices of the California Indians, but I would  
like to see some solid policies that ’cause change’ because they  
are meant to cause change!”

The document states, “This policy defines provisions for improving  
Natural Resources Agency consultation, communication and  
collaboration with tribes to the extent that a conflict does not  
exist with applicable law or regulations.”

Sisk responded, “The reason we need a policy that has some clout for  
change is because there are inappropriate laws and regulations that  
ignore or suppress the rights of California Tribal peoples that are  
all ready causing ‘conflicts.’”

“I do hope for the best to come of this attempt to develop  
‘inclusive and regular communication efforts that the interests of  
California’s tribes and tribal communities will be recognized and  
understood in the larger context of complex decision-making.’ It  
would also be important for the Governor to provide a budget for this  
effort on the part of the California Tribal peoples, who are always  
expected to volunteer their time when everyone else at the table is  
on the payroll," Sisk concluded.

The lack of any tribal consultation policy has been a persistent  
problem in not only the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act  
(MLPA) Initiative process to create “marine protected areas” along  
the California Coast, but in the Delta Vision and Bay Delta  
Conservation Plan (BDCP) processes designed to build a peripheral  
canal or tunnel and other programs managed by the Natural Resources  

Under pressure from fishermen, tribal members and environmentalists,  
the Schwarzenegger administration finally appointed one tribal  
representative, Gary Mulcahy of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, to the  
Delta Vision stakeholders group in 2005. However, the Resources  
Agency has refused to date to appoint any tribal representatives, as  
well any fishermen, Delta residents and family farmers, to the Bay  
Delta Conservation Plan Management Committee.

Indian Tribes, fishermen, Delta residents, family farmers, grassroots  
environmentalists and scores of elected officials are opposed to the  
construction of the peripheral canal because they and the  
government’s own scientists believe that it will hasten the  
extinction of Central Valley chinook salmon, Delta smelt, longfin  
smelt and other species.

The policy will be circulated for comment, with a comment deadline of  
July 15, 2012. A public meeting will be held on June 26 at 1:30 pm,  
at Thunder Valley Resort, 1200 Athens Avenue, Lincoln, California 95648.
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