As of Tuesday, May 8, 2018
The leaders of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and the Nez Perce Tribe wish to respond to questions regarding cattle grazing in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (NRA) near Pittsburg Landing.
We want the community to understand why cattle grazing is occurring on this portion of the Hells Canyon NRA. Portions of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest overlap with the traditional homeland of the Nez Perce Tribe.
In 1855, the United States and the Nez Perce Tribe entered into a treaty in which the Nez Perce reserved, and the United States secured to the tribe, certain rights, including the right to pasture the tribe’s horses and cattle upon “open and unclaimed land” (Article 3, 1855 Treaty with the Nez Perce). United States court decisions have confirmed that, within the meaning of the treaty and federal law, “open and unclaimed land” includes most national forest system lands, including the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
Recently, the Nez Perce Tribe informed the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest that a tribal member desired to exercise this treaty pasturing right. To that end, forest and tribal leaders signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a cooperative relationship to facilitate the exercise of the treaty pasturing right.
It is important to understand that the Nez Perce Tribe is a self-governing nation that regulates the exercise of off-reservation rights by its members. The tribe has authorized its members to graze horses and cattle on the national forest, including the area around Pittsburg Landing in Hells Canyon NRA. Areas of the Forest not already occupied by a grazing permittee were chosen for treaty-right pasturing.
Although the tribal member is an experienced and responsible livestock operator, many of the typical challenges that come with grazing in a new area have arisen. However, the tribal member, the tribe, and the Forest Service truly want this endeavor to be successful. We have identified resource use and management changes and are working together to address outstanding issues. We anticipate that the current grazing activities will continue under the treaty rights. Both the Forest Service and Nez Perce Tribe are committed to making these activities work in coordination with other public operations on the forest, such as recreational activities.
In closing, the leadership of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and Nez Perce Tribe are committed to our continued partnership, ensuring quality visitor experiences, and responsible use of forest resources.