WALKER -- There was a cooperative tone in the meeting Monday between the Cass County Board and the Leech Lake Tribal Council, though differences also were apparent.
Leech Lake Secretary/Treasurer Archie LaRose did not attend the meeting.
Leech Lake Chairman George Goggleye reported Leech Lake's natural resources officers have shot 2,500 cormorants so far this summer in an effort to cut that bird species population on Pelican Island in Leech Lake. Those birds eat vast numbers of walleyes, leading Walker area people to believe the birds have caused a decline in Leech Lake walleye fishing.
Goggleye said the birds' eggs also were oiled to prevent this summer's hatching.
He said a few years ago, the natural resource department decided to remove mink and other predators from the island to make it safe for terns living on the island. In doing that, it also made it safe for cormorants to move in.
Goggleye reported Minnesota DNR has begun a walleye-restocking program this year on Leech Lake. The fingerling resource, however, is limited, partly because the only walleyes having a genetic match are those in Woman Lake. It will take three to four years to see Leech Lake improve, he said.
Council member Lyman Losh said some cormorants might be moving to other lakes due to the disruption on Leech. They have been seen for the first time this year on Lake Winnibigoshish, he said.
Cass County Administrator Robert Yochum said Cass and Itasca county boards have tabled a proposal to seek special legislation to implement countywide lodging taxes.
Goggleye said the tribal-state gaming expansion agreement will not be approved in this year's legislative session. Leech Lake will not support combining a racino with expanded tribal gaming, he said. Though the Legislature may address this issue again next year, Goggleye said he does not believe voters in Minnesota will support open gambling throughout the state.
Mike Garbow, Leech Lake legal counsel, asked whether the county will continue to object to the tribe's applications to place more reservation land in trust for the reservation.
Maus said he is waiting for a federal government determination on the long backlog of applications nationwide to show whether the trend will be toward approving more trust land or rejecting more applications. He said that because land in trust is not subject to property taxes, the county would prefer to exchange land with Leech Lake.
Land Commissioner Norm Moody said it makes sense to exchange land so the county and tribe can consolidate their land interests in concentrated areas where each can more economically provide services to land they own.
The U.S. Forest Service owns the vast majority of non-tribal and non-county or private land within reservation boundaries and in Cass County. Goggleye said Leech Lake is interested in negotiating an agreement with the forest service to manage the federal forest resource land within reservation boundaries.
Currently, a lot of the timber and recreational resource land Cass County manages is actually state-owned, but county administered. Leech Lake Reservation would like a similar arrangement with the federal government in the Chippewa Forest.
Yochum said the county would be interested in seeing local management of U.S Forest Service land.
Some tribal members have objected to paying fines for failing to obtain county zoning permits, said Garbow. Maus said the county manages zoning on non-trust reservation land because the tribe does not. Zoning ensures some uniformity and prevents environmental hazards, he said.
Maus offered the county's assistance if Leech Lake should choose to draft its own zoning ordinances and implement enforcement. While Maus said the county does not administer zoning as a moneymaking project for county government, Yochum told the council permit fees do cover county costs to administer zoning.
In response to an inquiry from Dorothy Opheim, health, human and veterans services director, about whether the tribal court will assume responsibility for Indian child welfare cases from district court, Leech Lake Human Services Director Rose Robinson said the tribe does not currently have the financial resources to do so.
Robinson said Leech Lake has been trying to focus on family preservation services and family treatment programs so fewer child welfare cases end up in court.
Goggleye said Leech Lake currently is doing an overhaul of its civil court system, so is not in a position to take on additional types of work.
Opheim reported Cass is involved in a pilot program to encourage more family members to take custody and more people to adopt children who cannot remain in their own home.
She also reported Cass' focus on truancy is showing some improvement in school attendance.
Maus said a study has shown children who attend school regularly in the early years are much less likely to use drugs or break laws when they are older, regardless of whether they come from a troubled home.
Yochum reported Cass and Leech Lake have jointly applied for a small cities grant to begin planning for a water supply system in Kego Township near Longville.
On economic development, Goggleye said Leech Lake's program has been operating for seven years, but nothing seems to be happening. He said Leech Lake would be interested in partnering with the county on economic development projects.
Commissioner Jim Dowson said a visioning program under way in Walker suggests there should be a hiking and biking trail running around Leech Lake. Currently, trails are in place at Cass Lake and running from that city to Walker along the west shore of the lake.
The Walker community visioning also supports a community hospital at Ah-Gwah-Ching and suggests Shingobee Island south of Walker might be an appropriate place for a nature interpretive center.
Sheriff Randy Fisher reported the tribal-county law enforcement agreement has been a successful cooperative agreement.
Goggleye suggested it might be appropriate now to review the agreement to see whether it should be amended to further improve it. The Leech Lake Council voted in May to fund expanding the Tribal Police Department to 27 officers, so 24-hour service can be provided in all reservation districts by September this year, he said.
Currently, after two recent resignations, the department has only eight officers.
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