The Yurok Tribe, located in California, is pursuing a federal law to transfer portions of Redwood National Park, Six Rivers National Forest, and marine sanctuary waters off northern California to be managed as a tribal park.
Draft legislation sent to the National Park Service by the Yurok Tribe would award the tribe title to and/or management authority over thousands of acres of federal lands; including 1,200 acres of Redwood National Park; 1,400 acres of the Six Rivers National Forest; and Redding Rock, a sea stack five miles offshore, together with joint management of federal marine sanctuary waters.
The bill also would appropriate $50 million in federal funds to purchase nearby private lands for the Yurok Tribe.
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch is opposed to the Yurok proposal. “These lands are held in common for all citizens of the U.S., including the Yuroks, and that is the way they should stay,” said Ruch. “This would be an unprecedented and unjustified giveaway of treasured public resources.”
The lands were once part of the Yurok ancestral homeland, and remain important to the tribe, Ruch acknowledges, however, he says, “the same can be said for most national park lands which have similar histories.”
Established in 1968, expanded in 1978, Redwood National Park now encompasses 75,452 acres, protecting some of the tallest trees on Earth, including 19,640 acres of old growth forest.
“The danger in these arrangements is that politics tends to take precedence over resource protection,” said Ruch. “The reason for a Yurok transfer is not to benefit the lands or the wildlife but to settle a political score.”
In August, PEER filed a complaint about park managers acceding to Indian requests to remove plants and cultural artifacts in violation of NPS regulations with the approval of NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis and strong support of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers.