Fort Hall Bottoms meeting attendees speak with the engineer.
By LACEY WHELAN
FORT HALL — On May 7, an informal meeting about the Fort Hall Bottoms was conducted with the community, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Fish & Wildlife Resident Fisheries department, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Walla Walla District at the Shoshone Bannock Casino Hotel.
Hunter Osborne, Resident Fisheries program manager, was the mediator as well as Tate Sudor, Engineer with the US Army Corps of Engineers. Osborne said it was an informal meeting but the purpose was to get comment on a project they are currently working on with the Corps of Engineers civil works action.
Tate Sudor, Project Manager, with the Corps of Engineers Civil works action, said he is looking to get information from the community, to start a product. The study purpose is to evaluate current conditions of the Fort Hall Bottoms such as aquatic, riparian, and uplands. The meeting is also to identify potential future projects/management strategies to assist with Bottoms management. Both Sudor and Osborne said there will be a series of meetings that will be scheduled.
Clyde Duke Dixey said the area down in the Bottoms is sacred ground. He recalls the history of the bottoms, and believes a lot of the stuff down there shouldn’t be disturbed. He is upset that there are so many fences being put up. He doesn’t see the reasoning behind it all. He feels the Snake River should be more taken care of, and there is too much water being affected. He believes the weeds are getting out of hand, and he knows that the horses eat only certain things and there are many different weeds that are being brought down by animals and people. He would like to see it changed and less fencing done. Sudor mentioned he would like to have Dixey show him the area that he is upset about the fencing.
Louise Dixey was next and talked about a statute concerning the Bottoms. There were very prominent cattlemen on the Bottoms, and how she and her husband keep their cattle there in the wintertime. She further mentions the history of her family with cattle, which has been over 44 years. One of her concerns is the Russian Olive trees, and she thinks they should be removed. Her main concern is the Bottoms needs to used more for cultural purposes as Clyde said. She is also concerned about the horses. She doesn’t like the fact that people are leaving the horses down in the Bottoms, and is concerned that there may be dead buffalo in the bottoms area as well. She also concerned the jurisdiction of the engineers and how they are able to do what they are doing. She said management has changed and it’s not for the better. She added it’s not right to have so many non-members down in the Bottoms, and said there are changes, which are not for the best.
Osborne agreed there should not be fencing in the Bottoms as well. Sudor wanted her to mark on the map and also write down concerns to have him use with the study.
Engineer Tate Sudor listens to attendees.
Sherwin Racehorse talked about his history with the Bottoms, and he knows of certain families who are cattleman and also the use of the Bottoms. He is concerned about the overpopulation of the horses down there. He also asks the engineers how they are going to control the horse problem. He worries about the pesticides getting into the water, and the importance and sacredness of the water. He wants the water cleaned up, and is worried about the land degradation. Racehorse recalls when he used to go with his grandmother you could drink the water down Bottoms, now if you try to do it you step in animal “crap” and something needs to be done. He asks how much can that land really stand? He says that we all need to determine an outcome of all this.
Anthony “Pete” Broncho was next to speak and said he grew up around Jimmie Creek. He recalls being younger and being able to burn the bad areas. He remembers the aquifer and it being overfilled. He said there was a sewer system that would leak into the bad areas, and now not being able to eat the fish down there. His concern is with the Snake River, and talked about getting the course changed. He is concerned with the ground around Dixey’s area and also the monument. He feels the ground is really “chewed up” and wants a way to make a barge to channel the straight stream instead of coming on to the reservation side. He believes the flooding issues are making the reservation side lose a lot of land. He knows how big it used to be and now it is not as large.
Russell Haskett, tribal member asked the engineers what is your trust role here?
Sudor introduced the Tribal Liaison, Dean E. Holecek, who said he works closely with the Tribal Council. He said they are the decision makers, and he feels the best way to fulfill the trust responsibilities is to consult with the Tribal Government, to make a decision and to take action.
Haskett said the area he thinks of with the Bottoms is a larger area than what most think of. When he thinks of the Bottoms area, he thinks it should be as far as American Falls area. He is concerned about the fact that when the streams are low, all that is seen is mud, and when it all settles in there, it is not a healthy ecosystem. Osborne reminded Haskett that he needs to have a map and mark where these areas are.
Haskett also agrees there should not be any more fences built. He feels there should be more control about how many cattle are being placed there as well, especially in the winter months. He really thinks the horses need to be removed from the Bottoms and the Tribes need to get rid of them. He also insists that the invasive species need to be managed better. He knows that certain plants are critically important and the flooding also needs to be addressed. He wants to have tests done on the water in the front end, and he wants time and effort put in to test these areas. His concern is also about the Simplot Land Exchange, and he is concerned with the management plans of the off reservation impacts need to be addressed. He is also worried about the invasive plants, and follows up needs to be done with treatment. Haskett further said the cattle being down there and impacting the merging vegetation and wonders the impact they are having on those? He said they need to quit spraying for the insects down there. He doesn’t think there should be any spraying done down there at all. He said when you take things out of the environment, it leaves a hole, it takes out food sources, and affects everything. He knows there are endangered species down there and it needs to be addressed and included in the plan.
Tribal elder Velda Racehorse was the next to speak. She said many negative aspects that happened down there. “If it’s not the Tribe fixing it, it should be the federal government who fixes these problems.” She praised the other speakers and agrees with what everyone had to say. She mentions several positive things about the Bottoms, and recalls many past memories. She closed with telling a story about an eagle she seen while driving in the Bottoms by herself.
There were additional comments said in the closing of the meeting, and the engineers wanted most of what everyone was saying to be put down on paper, to be addressed.
The engineers provided the attendants a sheet with questions on it as follows:
1.What value or uses does the Fort Hall Bottoms provide you (hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching, cultural, gathering, peace of mind, etc.)
2. What of these uses/values would you like to see improve in the future?
3. How have the natural and cultural resources within Fort Hall Bottoms area changed (or not) over time?
4. Have wild horse impacted the Fort Hall Bottoms area? If so, how?
5. Has livestock grazing impacted the Fort Hall Bottoms area? If so, how?
6. Would a livestock management plan for the Fort Hall Bottoms improve natural and cultural values important to you?
7. If so, what types of livestock management (fencing, water holes, rotational grazing, planting vegetation, etc.) would you recommend and why?