A Chippewa leader is calling on state officials to stop spreading what he calls "propaganda" about spear-fishing and imploring lawmakers not to trade the state's natural resources for temporary jobs at a giant iron mine near Lake Superior.
Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Chairman Gordon Thayer delivered the annual State of the Tribes address Tuesday. He's complaining about Department of Natural Resources press releases about tribal spear-fishing saying the agency's propaganda could re-ignite anger toward tribal anglers.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp has issued the following response:
"The health and sustainability of the fishery, the interests of Wisconsin’s citizens and respect for the Treaty Rights of the Chippewa Tribes are foremost in my priorities.
I have stated it in the past, and I want to be clear again, that the Chippewa tribes are acting lawfully within their treaty rights and the increased declarations do not endanger the fishery.
However the declaration of 197 lakes at a level that will result in a one-walleye daily bag limit for anglers was a drastic increase, given that over the past 15 years, we have seen a maximum of 10 lakes declared at one time for one-walleye bag limits.
As we have stated publicly, the reduced bag limit has the potential to drive down angler participation throughout the summer, decreasing tourism to the lakes of northern Wisconsin, and impacting local economies. These are economies that are already suffering the impacts of reduced winter recreation and summer visits.
These are our concerns and the interests I seek to represent in attempting to negotiate with the tribes on a reduction in their declarations.
We have reached out to the tribes asking to meet with them to discuss the walleye spearing declarations.
I am committed to continuing to build upon the successful partnerships we have expanded upon under this DNR administration. The tribes of northern Wisconsin and the DNR have numerous successes to celebrate and a strong foundation for negotiating on issues such as this."
In his State of the Tribes address, Chairman Thayer also complained about a Republican-authored law that relaxes mining regulations. The law is designed to help Gogebic Taconite open a huge open-pit iron mine in the Penokee Hills near the Bad River Chippewa's reservation.
Thayer says the state can't cash in its natural resources for corporate profit.