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Dayton Accused of Secret Deal with Tribes on Mille Lacs Walleye Limits

Gov. Dayton may be even less welcome around Mille Lacs now than when a flotilla of sportsmen and residents interrupted his photo op earlier this summer on what used to be the nation’s best walleye fishery.  Anglers have endured an extended ban on walleye fishing interspersed with catch-and-release restrictions this summer, due to what critics view as mismanagement of the resource by the Dayton administration.

Now the co-chair of the Mille Lacs Fishery Advisory Committee has accused the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Dayton of cutting a secret deal with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibway and other tribes on the walleye harvest for the next three years.  The agreement was finalized in March, but only recently came to light.

MLFAC Co-Chair Dean Hanson launched a blistering letter to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, accusing him of going behind the backs of a citizens group that was supposed to be part of the process.

“We were shocked to say the least. No one from the DNR had ever spoken to MLFAC about this agreement, either before or after its signing. This agreement was never disclosed to the public at any time. Why would the DNR secretly negotiate a settlement like this without disclosing it to anyone?”

Hanson criticizes several aspects of the deal, including a “boost to treaty harvest quotas” that he says “could severely reduce our potential harvest in the future.”

A powerful conservation group, Proper Economic Resource Management, also ripped Dayton and the DNR for a lack of transparency and paying lip-service to local businesses and residents who depend on the fishery. On the PERM website, President Douglas Meyenburg called on DNR Commissioner Landwehr and DNR head of fisheries Don Pereira to resign.

“This shows the DNR’s leadership has no regard for the MLFAC members whom they appoint. It ignores the constituencies MLFAC represents and the suggestions they have been making for improving the ‘co-management of Mille Lacs.’

The agreement leads one to believe all the meetings with Governor Dayton and DNR officials have been nothing more than dog-and-pony shows.

If an agreement like this has to be done behind closed doors, and the results known only if leaked, is ther more going on than meets the eye?”

Meyenburg added that the parties to the agreement “should be exposed for breaking trust with the citizens of Minnesota, and violating the spirit of the Supreme Court’s affirmation of 1837 Treaty harvest rights.”

One of the conservation group’s guiding principles is listed on its website: “PERM believes that our public natural resources should be managed for the benefit of ALL citizens, and not exclusively for the benefit of those with political access or clout.”

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