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Ancestral Land Could Soon Be Returned to Maidu in Long-Anticipated Conservation Recommendation

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By CPUC Commissioner Clifford Rechtschaffen

The California Public Utilities Commission works on a variety of complex issues, but few people may know we have been playing an important role in helping a group of Maidu Indians position themselves to soon regain ownership of some of the tribe's ancestral homeland in Plumas County.

Part of a much larger tract of Pacific Gas & Electric land-140,000 acres in all-this parcel that includes 2,325 acres had been designated for conservation under the 2003 bankruptcy agreement between the utility and the CPUC.

For more than a decade, a group of local Maidu Indians has been working to regain ownership of the gorgeous meadow around scenic Lake Almanor that the Maidu refer to as Tasmam Koyom.

Now, following a unanimous recommendation by the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council, the non-profit land-conservation entity established in the bankruptcy agreement, Maidu descendants are  close to getting back the land that means so much to them.

There are additional regulatory hurdles to clear before the recommendation comes up for consideration by the full CPUC, but members of the tribe are predictably excited.

Lorena Gorbet, a Maidu Indian who's been working on the issue for years, was quoted in a recent article about the land in the Sacramento Bee. "At first it was just getting everybody to work together," she said. "They were driven by the potential of owning the land of their ancestors as well as a vision of managing it to heal and nourish the places they had lost: restoring angelica to meadows; returning oak savannahs to hillsides; even bringing back the snapping turtles and salmon that frequent their songs and stories. They believed restoring the land would restore their culture and their people."

If the transfer does become final in the coming months, it would mark the first time ancestral lands in California have been returned to a Native American tribe not recognized by the federal government.  It would also, I believe, reflect this Commission's responsiveness in considering the concerns of Native Americans in our state.

We now conduct regular and ongoing outreach to Native American tribes as part of the Commission's Tribal Consultation Policy we approved in April. With that approval, Stephanie Green of the CPUC's News and Outreach office, was designated as the Commission's official Tribal Liaison.

The consultation policy calls for the Commission to: 

· Encourage and facilitate tribal government participation in CPUC proceedings;
· Give meaningful consideration to tribal interests in issues within the CPUC's jurisdiction;
· Encourage and facilitate tribal government participation in CPUC-approved utility programs;
· Protect tribal cultural resources;
· Encourage investments by tribal governments and tribal members in onsite renewable energy generation, energy efficiency; low carbon transportation and energy storage.

Stay tuned to this space and I will make sure to post an update once a final determination has been reached.

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