Tribal Government & News

General Council receives Natural Resources briefing

Natural Resources Department Manager Michael Wilson makes a presentation to the general membership at the Monarch Hotel & Convention Center on Sunday, Feb. 3.

By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

CLACKAMAS -- Approximately 50 Tribal members listened to Natural Resources Department Manager Michael Wilson brief General Council on management of Tribal lands during the Sunday, Feb. 3, meeting held at the Monarch Hotel & Convention Center.

Wilson discussed several Natural Resources efforts, such as growing Native plants in a nursery at the Natural Resources offices for restoration projects, harvesting older than industry standard timber and the fire program.

“I enjoy working in natural resources,” Wilson said. “I enjoy working for the Natural Resources Department for the Tribe. We have just an outstanding, great group there. … We have a lot of really, really dedicated people and a lot of diversity in professions and perspectives, and that plays out really well in taking care of your lands.”

Natural Resources is responsible for managing 12,789 acres of forestland, growing larger than industry-standard timber.

“We’re growing trees on the Reservation that are quite old,” Wilson said. “Our age when we’re harvesting trees is primarily around 70. A lot of them are older than that. This works well for us. We’re growing habitat and there is not as much impact on the land.”

Wilson said Grand Ronde is bucking an industry trend toward smaller logs for smaller sawmills, but that staff has done a good job finding specialty markets for larger logs. Most of the logs go to Hull Oakes Mill in Bellfountain.

Tribal Reservation logs have been used to build a Bass Pro Shop in Memphis, Tenn., as well as the new Long Timber Brewery in Monroe north of Eugene.

“This beam is going to go out to somebody who really wants and appreciates that wood and the story that is being exposed in the grain of this tree that’s been on our Reservation,” Wilson said while showing a video of a large log being planed at Hull Oakes. “It’s very, very tough for any in the forest industry now where they’re growing trees that are about 40 years old or such, they can’t grow that. We’ve looked for the specialty market where we can continue our management and continue our style and our philosophy that the Tribal membership wants to see on our Reservation, but also get a good value for them.”

The Natural Resources Department’s Fire Program clears logging sites after harvesting by piling slash and burning the debris instead of using pesticides. That allows for tree planting to occur afterward.

Wilson said the Tribe keeps that program in-house and does not have to contract out for the service.

“It’s always great to have the membership taking care of their own land when we can,” Wilson said.

Wilson fielded nine comments and questions from Tribal members following his presentation.

In response to questions, Wilson said the Tribe primarily plants Douglas fir, western hemlock and red cedar on the Reservation and that the surplus salmon distributed to the membership originates in fish hatcheries and not fish farms.

Before the meeting, about 35 Tribal members attended a 10 a.m. Coffee & Conversation with Dr. Stephen Dow Beckham, who repeated his historical presentation regarding the Willamette Falls fishery that was given in Grand Ronde in early December.

Beckham said his research has established that Willamette Falls was the “exclusive fishery of the antecedent Tribes of Grand Ronde and no other Tribes.”

His 160-page report can be found

Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy said that research by such a renowned Oregon historian as Beckham only goes to prove that the oral histories handed down by Tribal ancestors is “probably 100 percent true.”

Following the presentation, Tribal Council Secretary Jon A. George presented Beckham with a salmon-themed necklace.

Tribal Council also honored Tribal member Bryan Mercier, who was recently named as the regional director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Portland, succeeding Stanley Speaks who retired in 2018. Mercier received a Tribal Pendleton blanket.

Michelle Anderson, Tracy Moreland and Kaalogi Mercier won the $100 door prizes and Keekoa Mercier, Francine Peterson, Joyce Ham, Lisa Archuleta and Perri McDaniel won the $50 door prizes.

The next General Council meeting will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, March 3, in the Tribal Community Center in Grand Ronde.

Jon A. George, Tribal Elder Greg Archuleta, Cultural Resources Specialist Chris Bailey, Cultural Resources Manager David Harrelson, Tribal member Eric Bernando, and Tribal Council members Lisa Leno and Kathleen George performed the cultural drumming and singing to open the meeting.

Natural Resources staff members Fish & Wildlife Program Manager Kelly Dirksen and Biologist Brandon Weems also distributed fish to Tribal members who attended the meeting.

Following lunch, the first of three Community Input meetings was held to solicit Tribal member input on possible advisory votes to be held during the September Tribal Council election. About 25 Tribal members participated in the discussion.

The other two Community Input meetings will be held following the March 3 General Council meeting in Grand Ronde and after the April 7 General Council meeting in Eugene.

The entire meeting can be viewed by visiting the Tribal website at and click on the News tab and then Video.