Oregon tribal restoration bill unanimously passes through Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bill to place thousands of acres of federal lands into the hands of Oregon Native American tribes passed through the U.S. Senate and is headed for President Donald Trump’s desk.

The Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act is bipartisan legislation created to address western Oregon tribal priorities. It passed the Senate unanimously Thursday night.

The act would place over 17,500 acres of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management into trust for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. Over 14,700 acres would be put into trust for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians.

In addition to the land trusts, the legislation would amend the Coquille Restoration Act to require the Interior Department to manage Coquille Indian Tribes’ forest lands in the same manner as other tribal forests.

The bill was authored by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Representatives Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).

Walden said. “This bill ensures these tribes can sustainably manage these lands to benefit the environment and local economy, creating jobs in their communities. I am proud to have worked alongside my colleagues to pass this long-overdue bill out of Congress, and look forward to the President signing it into law.”

“While more can and must be done to rectify the injustices that tribes have long faced, passing this bill into law marks an important step forward in recognizing the sovereignty of western Oregon tribes,” Wyden said in part.