GLIFWC

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Nick Vander Puy:
George Meyer, we’re at Bad River Indian Reservation.
We’ve been getting together with tribal biologists, with spearers, with netters, with tribal attorneys, state attorneys. It’s kind of an old home week.

George Meyer:
It truly is. Many of these people were in the action 25 years ago, when the court decision came down, affirming the off-reservation rights, and these people have not been together, many of them, for 20, 25 years. And it’s really good to see everybody.

Nick Vander Puy:
Not to lessen the struggle that we went through, but to think about the present and the future. A warden supervisor from Spooner, Dave Zebro, told me a few days ago that, Nick, it’s an entirely new world. You’ve been there in that transformative stage. How is it different now, the relations between the state and the tribes in 2009?

George Meyer:
There’s an excellent relationship, as an example, especially, when we get to the field level. You have the state and tribal biologists working together on a weekly basis. Conservation workers from the Commission [GLIFWC] and the Department of Natural Resources, every year. They take training together and they’re out in the field together. And especially with new generations coming through. This is what’s expected, they know it, it’s part of the job, all the history in terms of conflict isn’t there anymore. And the resource is better protected, more law enforcement, better detail and knowledge for managing the fishery and wildlife resources. Really excellent, cooperative work right now.

Nick Vander Puy:
Let’s reemphasize some of the fruits of the treaty movement. We know we have far more fish inventories in the state than we did before

George Meyer:
Yes, because of the increase of the number of state fishery biologists, plus the Commission biologists, and doing fish surveys on lake to ascertain populations, there are now more fish surveys done every year in the lakes of the ceded territory of Wisconsin than there are in the rest of the country put together. And because of that knowledge, you have the ability to better manage the populations and ensure they can be healthy. Fish populations in Northern Wisconsin as we’ve seen here are in fact in better shape than they were 25 years ago. We have this great increase of trained conservation wardens. There’s not a sufficient number of wardens in Northern Wisconsin; there were far fewer before the Commission wardens came on to add to the number of wardens that are out there protecting our resource on a daily basis. Tribal governments are far stronger. They’ve developed the infrastructure—governmental infrastructure—stronger legislatures, stronger court systems. In fact they had to do that to implement the treaty rights. They’re there for other purposes, whether it’s to regulate gaming but also to deal with other tribal governmental functions. That’s a benefit to everyone in Northern Wisconsin.

Nick Vander Puy:
We’re seeing some of the lakes evaporate up here. We’re having trouble with a change in the climate. It’s becoming obvious. What are some of the challenges facing cooperative care for the land.

George Meyer:
Well, especially as lakes diminish, obviously there’s a threat to the fish populations. If you’re a sports angler or tribal spearer, that’s a threat. You may have fewer resources to harvest in the future and that’s something you can’t control. If it’s a pollution source, obviously, the tribe can insist that the state enforce state pollution laws and deal with it. But obviously climate change has to be resolved on an international level—there’s obviously state and federal responsibilities that have to take place—but it’s international. It’s a very serious challenge which threatens the viability of the resources.

Nick Vander Puy:
George Meyer, is there anything you’d like to add?

George Meyer:
Well, Northern Wisconsin has come a long way, and in fact the close working relationships between the tribes and the states and the local units of government is good to see after the controversy of 25 years ago

Nick Vander Puy:
This is Nick Vander Puy and George Meyer on the Bad River Reserve in Northwestern Wisconsin, for Indian Country TV.

Video courtesy of Indian Country TV, 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnDzFggAuJY

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