February 12, 2009

SENATE COMMITTEE ON INDIAN AFFAIRS

By Senator Mike Crapo

At the start of every new Congress, Senate committee assignments are reviewed and changes made. While some of my assignments have remained the same-(Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Budget Committee), I have been successful in obtaining two additional assignments that reflect priorities Idahoans place on our remarkable natural resources and a commitment to our strong Native American heritage. In addition to a seat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I once again hold a seat on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, with jurisdiction over tribal land management and trust responsibilities, tribal education, health, special services and loan programs, and tribal claims against the United States.

As sovereign nations under U.S. law, the Tribes work with the federal government when resolving disputes and managing challenges. I intend to use my position on the Committee to help facilitate ongoing collaborative decision-making so critical to healthy working relationships on the ground-decision-making that has proven successful time and again in Idaho. In situations where there is conflict, I will work to resolve points of contention in a manner that is as satisfactory as possible to all concerned. Regardless of the issue or location, the key to moving ahead with difficult issues is to treat all parties with respect. There are many challenges in and around Indian Country and building respectful and trusting relationships will be essential to making progress.

Idaho has five sovereign Native American nations including the Kootenai, the Coeur d'Alene, the Nez Perce, the Shoshone-Bannocks and the Shoshone-Paiutes. Throughout my public service career, important milestones have been experience in efforts to foster collaboration between the Tribes, the federal government, the State and local governments, in order to further important work in Idaho for conservation, national security and land management. In the mid-1990s, I participated in negotiations that resulted in an important agreement creating a world-class training range for the U.S. Air Force in south-central Idaho, while codifying the preservation of important cultural relics and sites. To the north, near the Canadian border, the Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative is a long time Kootenai Tribe-community partnership working together to preserve the water, forest and wildlife resources in the Kootenai Valley. I've worked with the Coeur d'Alene Tribe in its successful effort to establish a comprehensive health and wellness center in Plummer and also worked hand-in-hand as they address the problem of domestic violence in local communities. In southeastern Idaho I have been working with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, affected property owners and local government to find agreement on reservation boundary concerns. In southwestern Idaho, the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes have been a critical partner in the development of the Owyhee Initiative, a comprehensive land management plan that is on the cusp of becoming law. In north central Idaho, the Nez Perce Tribe is part of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative, a habitat conservation project that includes many interests and stakeholders. In addition, regional anadromous fish recovery is of interest to all the tribes and the challenge of protecting wild sheep, while ensuring domestic sheep industry viability, is an issue on which much work remains. These and other issues will require successful collaboration among Idaho tribes and many other constituencies.

The potential for more good work is there, as has been demonstrated by successes in recent years. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Committee as well as continuing my collaboration with each of the sovereign Indian nations in Idaho on issues under the Committee's jurisdiction.

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