Maidu and Forest Service vie for same PG&E land

Alicia Knadler
Indian Valley Editor

Maidu Summit leaders will attend a Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council meeting in Oakland tomorrow, Sept. 16, to ask that two PG&E-owned parcels be removed from the current round of the donation process.

The parcels are along the North Fork of the Feather River, and are among seven parcels on a Forest Service proposal to be the donee of fee titles.

The other parcels are at Bass Lake, on Deer Creek, the Kern River, Kings River and the Wishon Reservoir.

Directors of the stewardship council may take action on the proposal at the meeting, as well as on several other items.

"We are going to comment on those two parcels at the meeting and request they be removed from the process," summit member Lorena Gorbet said. "Both parcels either contain or are near known Maidu archeological sites."

The donation process began after PG&E filed for bankruptcy

In 2007, Maidu Summit Consortium members submitted a land-management plan to the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, the organization charged with conservation of about 140,000 acres of PG&E land through a donation and stewardship program.

Maidu Summit Consortium secretary and treasurer Lorena Gorbet talked about plans for the land during a 2008 gathering at the Yellow Creek Campground in Humbug, where a representative of the Stewardship Council explained the land title and conservation easement process.

The consortium received its nonprofit status earlier this year.

"The summit is made up of two federally recognized tribes, two non-federally recognized tribes, three nonprofit corporations and two Native American associations," Gorbet said.

"This was done as we decided that we wanted the land for all our Mountain Maidu people and not just one individual tribe or organization."

To that end, consortium members have been meeting with the Stewardship Council since 2003.

For the past 30 years, members of the Maidu community have commented on the FERC re-licensing process in their ancestral territories.

"We have asked for land to be returned as just compensation for everything that we lost to the hydro projects in the last 100 years," Gorbet said.

In just the Big Meadows area, now Lake Almanor, the Butt Valley, Mountain Meadows and Humbug Valley, they have documented losses of 110 Indian allotment parcels, which are like homesteads.

These total more than 17,000 acres.

"But we didn't just lose the land, we lost the fish, the eels, the turtles and otters that used to come up the rivers," Gorbet continued. "Besides that, we lost the fishing villages, the ceremonies and the songs that used to go along with the gathering and harvesting of these resources.

"Also lost are many sacred sites and burial sites that are now under the waters of the manmade reservoirs in this area.

"The hydro projects have caused a large cultural disruption to the Mountain Maidu people," she concluded.

During the same stewardship council meeting, directors will hear a proposal by PG&E to retain ownership of nine planning units: Auberry Service Center, Butt Valley, Chili Bar, Iron Canyon Reservoir, Lake McCloud, Merced River, Middle Fork Stanislaus River, Kilarc and the Philbrook Reservoir.

Of those, the only ones in the traditional Maidu territory are those in the Butt Valley, and they have told the stewardship council they are not interested in those parcels.

"The lands the summit is trying to get ownership of in the round one process are all the parcels in Humbug Valley, which equal more than 2,300 acres, and all the available parcels in the Lake Almanor unit, which total 1,852 acres.

"In the round two process we are interested in obtaining all the available parcels in the North Fork Feather River Unit, which total 5,128 acres," said Gorbet.

Other agenda items up for possible action by the council include     the following:

They will hear a proposal the Bureau of Land Management be the prospective donee for one parcel located in the Oroville planning unit.

There is also a requested delegation of authority to the executive director to execute a memorandum of understanding with the Sierra Nevada Conservancy regarding certain third-party roles the conservancy might take to implement the land conservation commitment, including the role of holding a conservation covenant on any watershed lands transferred to the U.S. Forest Service.

There is also a Watershed Planning Committee recommendation to support PG&E seeking the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission and the federal bankruptcy court to amend the settlement agreement to take the PG&E Carrizo Plain property out of the land conservation commitment.

According to a council official, removing the PG&E Carrizo Plain property from the Land Conservation Commitment would allow PG&E to pursue a land exchange under which the 655-acre PG&E site would be acquired by First Solar, Inc., in exchange for two privately owned parcels totaling approximately 1,200 acres and located within the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Observers anticipate BLM would received the 1,200 acres and permanently protect them as part of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, and that the 655-acre site would be incorporated into a proposed solar facility.

Members of the public are welcome to attend and provide feedback and suggestions to the board.

Directors on the board will meet from 1:30 - 5 p.m., at Preservation Park, Nile Hall, at 668 13th St. in Oakland.

For more information about the Stewardship Council, those interested may call (866) 791-5150 or visit

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