KALAMAZOO, Michigan – A federal judge in Michigan has denied a request by members of hunting and fishing advocacy groups to interfere in ongoing treaty rights negotiations between state, federal and tribal authorities.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Maloney ruled on Wednesday, August 31, 2022, that the Coalition to Protect Michigan Resources (CPMR) and De Nook Bay’s Great Lakes Sports Fishermen do not justify an upgrade from amicus curiae to full intervention status. The groups wanted a full position in the final weeks of years of talks to re-settlement over fishing rights under the Great Lakes Tribal Treaty.
The judge said that only kings were allowed full party status. He also said that the groups’ argument that the state had abandoned its interests in the treaty’s fishing rights negotiations was “completely baseless”, and their claim that they had been excluded from the process was “absolutely baseless”.
Maloney also referred to the timing of Request groups to intervene – The seventh such attempt – she was suspicious and said that the “lack of timing of the movement was the most compelling reason” for her refusal.
Allowing groups to intervene at this late stage, the judge said, would derail the years-long process of drafting a new consent decree as the end-September deadline approaches. In his order, he wrote, the existing parties would be “severely biased” and “the product of intense negotiations and compromise – causing further delays – could vanish.”
The request from the fishing and conservation groups came after a conference on the situation in June when the parties said they were nearing the end of negotiations and would meet the September 30 deadline to submit a final draft of the new approval decree to the court.
The consent decree from 2000 was originally set to expire in August 2020 but has been extended by order of the Federal Court until the parties negotiate a new agreement. The decree focused on the management of whitefish and Great Lakes trout.
The five indigenous tribes that are party to negotiations with the state include the Bay Mills Indian Community, Sault Ste. Mari Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, and Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. The US government is also a full party.
The CPMR and the Bay de Noc group argued that Great Lakes fisheries resources were “threatened by abandonment of sound biological principles” by Michigan officials, who asserted that they had also wrongly given up allocating roughly 50-50 percent of fisheries under The last decree.
CPMR treasurer Amy Trotter said the organization is still reviewing the judge’s decision with her attorney, but said “on the surface, we still disagree with the court over the appropriate representation for the state of Michigan with respect to recreational fishermen.”
She said the group is considering the appeal and all legal avenues, but noted that it’s not all bad news for hunting and conservation groups.
“One thing that was a bright spot in the ruling and the discussion in court last week, is that the judge said that when the successor consent decree is presented to the court, the court will allow all parties in America to file objections to the proposed decree,” Trotter said. “We are keen to present these files.”
State and tribal officials declined to comment, citing a secret agreement related to the negotiations.