PORTLAND, Ore. -- The governor of Montana apparently will not join Oregon and Washington in the so-called Three Sovereigns process for salmon recovery and nearly half the affected Indian tribes are having doubts, The Oregonian has reported. The development was seen as a setback for Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber's efforts to break a deadlock over salmon recovery with a regional problem-solving approach.
In addition to Montana Gov. Marc Racicot's concerns, six of 13 Indian tribes -- all of whom are considered critical to any successful salmon recovery restoration strategy -- also are uncertain about participating.
Idaho Gov.-elect Dirk Kempthorne has withheld his support from the Three Sovereigns approach since last spring because of concerns that it would require the state to surrender its rights to some kind of regional authority. ``I can't do that,'' Kempthorne said.
The development means no quick end to disputes among the states, tribes, and federal agencies over salmon recovery that has cost over $3 billion during the past 15 years without producing any marked results.
The governors, federal officials, and tribal leaders -- representing three sovereigns -- were scheduled to meet in Portland to commit to signing a memorandum of agreement outlining a new form of regional governance called the Columbia Basin Forum.
But several problems have developed:
Some tribal leaders say recent actions by the Oregon attorney general's office have raised suspicions. Olney Patt Jr., council chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, cited the state's opposition last year to a federal proposal to abolish an 1865 treaty that severely restricted tribal rights to hunting. Oregon also tried this fall to block an agreement with the federal government to extend a tribal salmon fishing season.
Advocates of the new forum, including Kitzhaber aides and top federal officials, contend it is still alive and that skepticism on the part of the states and tribes could moderate.
``My attitude is, let's leave the door open.'' said Danny Consenstein, Columbia River coordinator for the National Marine Fisheries Service. ``I haven't given up on them.''
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