First day of issuing new Tribal hunting, fishing tags a success
By Danielle Harrison
Smoke Signals editor
Monday, Oct. 2, was the first day Tribal members were able to receive a new Grand Ronde Tribal harvest license and tags for use under the historic memorandum of agreement signed with the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife.
By all accounts, it was a success, with 43 deer tags, 43 elk tags and 27 fishing/harvest tags issued. Tribal members traveled from as far away as Portland to get their Tribally issued tags, which allow them to ceremonially hunt and fish in expanded territory throughout Western Oregon.
Tribal Elder Gary LaChance, 55, was the first person to be issued the tags when he walked through the doors of the Natural Resources building just after 7:30 a.m.
“It was an awesome moment to witness the first tags go out the door,” Natural Resources Director Colby Drake said in an email. “Staff was hugging and cheering as he left (to begin hunting). This will be the first of many firsts for the Tribe and NRD staff related to the new MOA with ODFW. We are so excited to see this come to fruition. Thank you to everyone who has put in many hours to make this a reality for the membership.”
The MOA signed between the Tribe and ODFW on Aug. 4 expanded the cultural hunting, fishing and gathering area from the 1,300-square-mile Trask Unit to more than 11,000 square miles. The number of tags issued on Monday under the new agreement is equivalent to all first and second season consent decree tags in the Trask Unit, according to Natural Resources staff.
“For NRD staff, today was a big day,” Drake said. “It started off with Gary LaChance picking up the first buck and elk MOA tags. There were hugs and tears amongst staff, some who have worked toward this day their whole career to see a Tribally issued tag leave the building. Overall, it was a great day getting to see Tribal members come in and be so excited to see just what is available to them in the lines of tags. There is some education that is happening as we roll this system out, but overall the enthusiasm throughout the day couldn’t be ignored by the membership and NRD staff.”
Tribal Council member Kathleen George described the day as "amazing."
"I raise my hands to all of our amazing staff," she said during a Tuesday, Oct. 3, Legislative Action Committee meeting. "It was an amazing day and wonderful to see us blessed with staff who are as passionate as we are about this. It's so exciting to see our Tribal members have the opportunity to hunt and fish in our ceded lands."
The new agreement with the state allows Tribal members to harvest finfish, lamprey, shellfish and crustaceans, mammals and birds in the Wilson, Trask, Willamette, Stott Mountain and Santiam wildlife management units in Western Oregon. In addition, Tribal members can fish on the Columbia River from Kelly Point to the Bonneville Dam in Oregon waters.
In reaction, Tribal Natural Resources staff members – the Fast Track Team -- have been working to create the regulations and structure of hunting and fishing in the new territory open to the Tribal membership for a fall 2023 season.
Natural Resources has expanded office hours on Tuesday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. until Tuesday, Nov. 7, to accommodate demand for new licenses. Office hours will remain 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Friday.
Tribal Fish & Wildlife Program Manager Kelly Dirksen is asking Tribal hunters and fishers to take pictures of their experiences in the new territories and submit them to Natural Resources to help the Tribe take the next steps in expanding hunting and fishing rights. Those who do will be entered into a drawing for a Cabela’s gift card, he added.
“It’s a much larger land base,” Dirksen said. “We have to get this right, so I hope you’ll be patient with us as we put the last pieces together to implement this in ’23 and in ’24.”
For more detailed information about the hunting and fishing licenses, see the Oct. 1 edition of Smoke Signals or download the digital version, available at smokesignals.org.