Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., second from right, and other leaders of the Yurok Tribe are seen with Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California), third from right. Photo courtesy Yurok Tribe
Environment | National | Politics

Yurok Tribe welcomes introduction of bill to add important lands to reservation

Support is growing for a bipartisan bill that would restore important lands in California to the Yurok Tribe.

When Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California), introduced H.R.3847 on September 27, the the Yurok Lands Act had 1 Democratic and 1 Republican co-sponsor. The list of supporters has since grown to include 3 more Republicans and another Democrat.

“The Yurok Tribe would like to sincerely thank Congressman Huffman for his commitment to serving all residents of the North Coast,” said Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. “This bill serves to support our independence and continued success as a thriving tribal nation.”

If the bill becomes law, the tribe would gain ownership of the Yurok Experimental Forest, also known as the Redwood Experimental Forest. The 1,229 acres, currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service, are located near tribal headquarters, along the northern California coast.

The bill requires the boundaries of the tribe's reservation to be redrawn to include the acreage. And the reservation would additional lands near the Blue Creek watershed, one of the tribe's most sacred areas.

Other significant provisions recognize the tribe's role in managing lands on and near its reservation. The bill would designate the tribe as a "lead agency" under the National Environmental Policy Act and would require federal agencies to enter into a memorandum of understanding to ensure the tribe is included in decision-making processes.

“The legislation will provide a reservation that serves the tribe’s interests, and give the tribe a role in land management decisions that affect the tribe," said Huffman, who recently received the tribe's first-ever Excellence in Partnership Award in honor of his efforts on Capitol Hill.

H.R.3847 has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs. A hearing has not been scheduled.