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March 16, 2007

Apr. 6: Tribes as Trustees Again, a symposium with Mary Wood

Tribes as Trustees Again
Indian Tribes want to protect what’s left of their aboriginal
lands and resources – this natural resources law expert sees
hope in the emerging conservation trust movement.
Mary Christina Wood
Law professor Mary Wood will lead a workshop for tribal leaders, government officials and land trust officials on that topic on Friday, April 6 at the law school.

 “Although Indian tribes did not describe their laws in western legal terms, they adhered to a trust concept of maintaining their land and its resources as a constant natural asset that would be available to people forever,” Wood said.

Now the federal government and private parties own almost all of those lands, and the loss has been staggering: pollution, wildlife extinction, wetland destruction, deforestation, urbanization.

The first generation of natural resources law, based on statutes and regulations, did not stop the hemorrhage of natural systems, Wood said. But new tools such as conservation
easements and land trusts show promise.

In Alaska, a conservation land trust protects the Copper River fishery that provides subsistence and commercial fishing for Alaska natives.

In southern Oregon, the KlamathTribe purchased a conservation easement across a privately owned ranch that provides crucial water rights for treaty harvested salmon.

In McCall, Idaho, the Nez PerceTribe and the State of Idaho gained a conservation easement on private land at Bergdorf Meadows to protect salmon habitat.

“Tribes have enormous opportunities to protect their aboriginal lands and resources through the new field of conservation trust law.” Wood said.

Wood was named a Knight Professor of Law this year for her cutting-edge scholarship on natural resources law, Indian law and the trust doctrine. She is also a Wayne Morse Center resident scholar.

-Eliza Schmidkunz


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