Klamath Tribes receive $1 million from FY24 funding packages for community-initiated projects in Oregon

Klamath Falls Herald and News

Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have secured investments for essential community-initiated projects in Oregon in both funding packages that recently cleared Congress and were signed into law by President Biden, the senators announced Wednesday.

With the support of Oregon’s Congressional delegation members in the U.S. House of Representatives — Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Val Hoyle, Andrea Salinas and Lori Chavez-DeRemer — the senators assisted in securing 139 projects in Oregon in the final FY24 spending bill.

The Klamath Tribes received $1 million to create a workforce training program for Tribal members to acquire the skills and tools to work in forest restoration, prescribed fire and wildfire management in the Fremont-Winema National Forest. As the forest is a Tribal Treaty Protected Land, the program will help the Klamath Tribes have greater access to care for known sacred sites within the forest.

“While the former reservation lands are largely no longer held in trust for us as reservation lands, we retain hunting, fishing and gathering rights within the reservation boundaries,” said Klamath Tribes Chairman Clayton Dumont. “This means the U.S. and the state of Oregon have legal responsibilities to take care of the land and water that supports those rights.”

“The Klamath Tribes are grateful for Sens. Merkley and Wyden’s advocacy on our behalf,” Dumont further stated. “They, like the Klamath Tribes, are tired of unnatural inferno-like fires destroying our environment, economy and public health. Rest assured that the Klamath Tribes will put our unique understanding of our homeland forest to work restoring health to land, water and the living beings that depend on them.”

As outlined in a proposal written in 2023 seeking funding for forest work and management by Klamath Tribes Natural Resources Director Steve Rondeau, the Klamath Tribes Forest and Fire Workforce Training Initiative project purpose is to create a workforce training program for tribal members and rural communities to gain skills and tools to work in forest and fire management. The program will directly address tribal workforce, unemployment, forest restoration and wildfire in a tribal and rural community with 7.4 percent unemployment and over 600,000 acres of wildfire in the past five years.

“The Forest and Fire Workforce Training Initiative is one of many funding proposals the Natural Resources Department has applied for aimed at bringing resources to the Tribes,” Rondeau said. “This funding will be used to train and certify members to be eligible for jobs in our wildland fire program and elsewhere. The workforce training initiative is a crucial step to the long-term goal of employing members to work on the land and use cultural fire to restore and enrich our Treaty resources. We express our gratitude to our Tribal Council, KIGC, Committees, Administration, general members, and Senators for their guidance and support.”