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Yuroks Seek to Own Part of Redwood Forest

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The Yurok Tribe, California’s largest at 5,000 members, is seeking to own and/or manage 1,200 acres of national forest that lies on reservation land at the mouth of the Klamath River, according to news reports.

Housed on a reservation that extends from one mile on each side of the Klamath River and reaches upriver for 44 miles, the tribe has been pursuing various strategies to serve as stewards of its lands for several years.

Now tribal officials have written a legislative proposal that they plan to submit to Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Helena, CA) in hopes of finalizing its dream of acquiring 238,000 acres and redrawing the Yurok Reservation’s boundaries, the Times-Standardreported in December.

The legislation would transfer federal lands at the mouth of the Klamath River, where it meets the Pacific, which would include lands in Redwood National Park and Six Rivers National Forest, the Times-Standard said.

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It’s part of a long-term vision to acquire 238,000 acres, the newspaper said. The Yuroks recently bought 22,000 acres in the Pecwan, Weitchpec and Ke'pel creek watersheds by working with the Western Rivers Conservancy and plans to acquire another 25,000 acres in the Blue Creek area from Green Diamond Resource Co., the Times-Standard reported Dec. 28.

The federal government transfer would include 1,200 acres on either side of the mouth of the Klamath River that is currently owned by the National Park Service but is within current reservation boundaries, the newspaper said.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the tribe hopes to create a park that could include eco-lodges, gift shops and water taxis in backcountry along the Klamath River. It would be managed as part of the chain of national and state parks that ring the Redwood Coast from Mendocino County to the Oregon border and encompass some of California’s most spectacular and contested landscapes, the L.A. Times said.

For its part the Yurok Tribe yearns for economic self-sufficiency as well as stewardship of the land its members reside on, according to its website. Without gaming or other business revenues, the 63,035-acre reservation has no tax base. So the Yurok Tribe “does not have the resources to construct essential community facilities, to install or replace eroding infrastructure or to create sustainable economic development on the Reservation,” the site says.

Because of this, more than 70 percent of the reservation has no phone service or electricity, and the poverty rate is 80 percent, the tribe says. The lack of physical and economic infrastructure hampers the tribe’s ability to foster economic growth, increase health-care access and education opportunities, increase agricultural production and create jobs, its website says.