The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa on Monday announced a new plan to charge non-band members a fee to access tribal forest lands for activities such as hunting and fishing.
Band officials said they will begin posting all band-owned lands in coming months with signs saying “No trespassing, Fond du Lac Band permit required,” along with additional information on how to obtain a permit.
The permits will cost nonmembers $25 per month or $100 for a one-year permit and will be available through the band's Resource Management department. The permits do not allow camping.
The new policy does not apply to lands recently acquired with funding from the state. In particular, all tribal lands acquired over the past several years with funding from the State of Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund will still be open to the general public for outdoor recreation. In addition, this policy will not affect any existing easements or agreements in place for such things as skiing or snowmobile trails on the reservation.
Fond du Lac's Reservation Business Committee approved the change last April "in order to uphold the band's heritage of conscientious resource stewardship."
“For us, these lands, waters, animals and plants are a source of food and medicine that are intrinsic elements of our way of life, which is why it is so important for us to strike a balance between usage and natural renewal processes," Kevin DuPuis, chairman of the Fond du Lac Band, said in a statement Monday. “We also recognize these resources provide appealing recreational opportunities for people outside our band, which is why we welcome the general public to utilize the permitting system to access band-owned land in a responsible way that helps us protect these sensitive habitats.”
Most of the band-owned lands are within the Fond du Lac Reservation, but not all of the reservation is owned by the band. As of 2017, the band owned about 42,000 acres of the 101,500 total acres, more than 66 square miles, within the boundary of the Fond du Lac Reservation in Carlton and St. Louis counties. The Fond du Lac Reservation once was entirely in tribal hands but, over a century and through various federal policies and questionable land deals, the band lost control of more than half its reservation. The band has since been working to re-acquire more of the reservation lands lost over the past 100 years.
The new policy does not govern an individual's ability to engage in any outdoor activity, such as hunting, fishing and trapping on the reservation — those are governed by the band's conservation code or state hunting laws.
Thomas Howes, natural resources program manager of the Fond du Lac Band, said the band's forest lands have seen increasing public pressures in recent years.
"Illegal garbage dumping, increased ATV traffic and overall growth in population have the potential to take their toll on wildlife and vegetation,’’ he said.
The band has about 4,200 enrolled members.
An informational meeting for the Fond du Lac Band members will be held Tuesday in the Cloquet Community Center in the Elder Nutrition Program Room from 5-7 p.m.
For more information on the permits, contact Resource Management at 218-878-7101.