Tribe and County Reach Agreement on ATV/UTV Roads Within the Reservation
By Joe Morey
After negotiations made between the Tribe and the County, an ordinance has passed through both the County’s Public Works Committee and the full County Board by votes on Tuesday, April 17, which has re-opened several roads through the Reservation to ATV/UTV use.
The Sawyer County ATV Alliance President, Cathy LeReau, reported to the Public Works Committee that she had been in discussion that afternoon with members of the Tribal Governing Board, and that they had proposed opening almost all the routes.
LeReau said that the Tribe said County Hwy E through Reserve and Skunawong communities would remain closed, as well as a section of County Hwy NN to Conger Road through Six Mile.
“All businesses that were affected by the closures will now have access,” LeReau stated. “I’m looking forward to a relationship with the Tribe in the future and we can keep moving forward.”
The new county ordinance also stated that all roads open to ATV/UTV use passing through the Reservation will only be open between the hours of 6:00 am and 11 pm, while all other county roads will be open 24 hours per day.
The owner of Chippewa Pines Resort spoke to the Committee and expressed his belief that policing re-routes and closed roads, and who could drive on them, would be a policing nightmare.
“There’s no way to police this without extreme prejudice,” he stated. He shared concerns about who would decides who gets off and who doesn’t when pulled over, or how do you decide who is Tribal or non-Tribal.
The LCO Attorney General’s Office had discussed this with the Tribal Governing Board (TGB) and stated in previous articles that a permit sticker would be required. For now, riders are simply required to stay on the open routes.
James Schlender Jr., LCO Attorney General, stated at the public works meeting treaty rights and case law about LCO’s right to a homeland are things you learn in the first year of law school.
“When we talk about restricting trails, we understand we have an economic benefit, and we understand we don’t live in a vacuum. We all have to move about together,” Schlender stated. “LCO will work with you, but don’t tell us what you’re ‘going to do,’ ask us. The County came and asked us, and we are working together. We’re sharing stories. We’ve heard what the businesses are having to endure. Bass Lake came and asked us and we’re working with them.”
Schlender stated that a group of 20 ATV’s is great for businesses, but not for the houses in those tribal communities.
“We reached out to some Towns, and some wouldn’t even recognize the authority of the Tribal Government,” Schlender continued. He added that the Tribe is willing to litigate in court if need be.
He said the Tribe is asking that they be patient with them while they work this out. This is a new phenomenon only coming about in the last decade.
“We can work out a solution, and if not, we can go to court,” Schlender told the committee members.
County Board member Mark Helwig proposed that a time limit be added to all county roads like the Tribe has for roads within the Reservation. He said he had heard from residents that they don’t like the noise of the ATV’s at all hours of the night. The other four committee members opposed any hours of operation and so the ordinance passed without a time limit, while observing the Tribe’s hours of operation on Rez, which are 6 am to 11 pm.