Washington, D.C. – Legislation authored by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Representatives Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., to address western Oregon tribal priorities passed the Senate unanimously last night. The bill now goes to the president to be signed into law.
The Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act would place 17,519 acres of federal land currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) into trust for the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, and 14,742 acres of federal land into trust for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. It would also amend the Coquille Restoration Act to require the Interior Department to manage the Coquille Indian Tribes’ forest lands in the same way as other tribal forest lands.
“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. “By returning land to both the Coos and Cow Creek tribes, and by putting the management of Coquille’s lands on equal footing with other tribal lands, this bill honors and respects each tribe’s right to be economically self-sufficient and provide jobs and resources for their communities.”
“With the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act, we will enable tribes to enhance their self-determination and ability to restore ancestral lands, while creating greater economic opportunity,” Merkley said. “It’s long-overdue, and I am thrilled this bill is heading to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”
“The passage of this bill is an important step for these three tribes. The Cow Creek and Coos tribes see a restoration of lands and the Coquille will finally be able to manage their forest lands the same way as other tribes,” 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 there is still much work to be done to correct our nation’s injustices towards Native Americans, the passage of the Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act is an encouraging move towards progress,” DeFazio said.“This legislation will finally grant the Coos, Cow Creek and Coquille Tribes the long-deserved opportunity to manage their own economic development and exercise their own authority over tribal lands.”
The Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act passed the House of Representatives in July. The bill passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously in March.