Questions arose at the Osage Congressional Commerce, Gaming and LandCommittee meeting on July 24, after the members were informed of a large saltwater spill on the Bluestem Ranch.
Chair of the committee, Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn, questioned Real Estate Services director Melissa Currey about what the Nation’s response is when environmental problems arise on Nation-owned lands.
Currey said she was notified in April from Bluestem Ranch Business Manager Amanda Kendrick-Bartenhagen that the spill had occurred. From recent photos she was sent, the spill was contained but the land needed remediation. However, she said the Bureau of Indian Affairs Osage Agency had not been forthcoming when she asked for records and instead instructed her to make a FOIA request for any records pertaining to the spill. She said before she could move forward with a solution she needed more information.
Morgan Currey, an attorney with the ON Attorney General’s office and Melissa Currey’s daughter, said she could help real estate services bypass any red tape with the BIA, and look at the regulations for environmental damage to lands. She said at the very least the Nation could ask for damages.
Whitehorn said in the future maybe the Congress should consider legislation to handle situations of environmental damage. “How are we going to come together as a nation to protect our property for our landowners and the nation?”
Congresswoman Alice Goodfox said she wasn’t against legislation for the issue, but what she was taking away from the meeting was that maybe there is a need for policy and procedure from the Executive Branch in dealing with environmental damages to lands.
According to the Real Estate Services website, “the department provides management and oversite on approximately 137,292 acres of individually and tribally owned restricted and trust lands.
“The Department offers farming and grazing lease management of individual and tribally owned properties. Other services include management of specialized business leases such as commercial, residential, hunting, and oil field related sites. The Field Inspectors provide inspections covering conservation needs, weed control, fencing, water, stocking rates, etc. The department also facilitates a noxious weed program and a fencing program for restricted landowners and their prospective lessees (as funding allows).”
Whitehorn reported to the committee that at the last Gaming Enterprise Board meeting it was reported the Osage Casino in Tulsa, despite construction, had seen a steady line of revenue instead of a predicted decrease.
“We’re healthy, we’re good, and we’re getting ready to open up our new casino,” she said.
For more information on upcoming Congressional committee meetings, visit the Osage Nation website’s event calendar.