Press Release, Water4fish
TACOMA, WA (5/4/15)—United States District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton dismissed a lawsuit this afternoon which had been filed in January against the Quinault Indian Nation and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources seeking to revoke ownership of Lake Quinault from the Tribe.
“This quick and explicit ruling was never in doubt,” said Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp. “As I said back in January, Lake Quinault is undisputedly within the Quinault Reservation. This was a meritless lawsuit. Lake Quinault is sacred to us. It is unquestionably within our Reservation and we take our responsibility to manage it properly very seriously.”
The suit, which was filed by North Quinault Properties LLC, questioned the Tribe’s ownership of the lake. The suit had included DNR for alleged failure to fulfill its management responsibilities. But the challenge actually stemmed from a few local landowners’ reactions to closure of the lake by the Quinault Nation last year, an action taken to protect the lake from pollution problems, invasive species and violation of tribally mandated regulations, said Sharp.
“Our objective is to protect the lake for future generations. We realize it is a popular recreation destination, and we are happy to accommodate those interests, but only as long as the lake is respected and protected at levels we accept,” she said.
“We want to acknowledge the fact that this frivolous lawsuit was brought by a single landowner and that a majority of landowners around the lake understand and support our objectives. They have shown respect for our efforts to reach out to work cooperatively while recognizing the exclusive governing authority of the Tribe. Good public policy among separate and distinct sovereigns requires cooperation, good faith, respect, and, when dealing with tribal nations, an understanding, in principle and practice, that our governing powers long pre-date the United States and its political subdivisions. I want to publicly thank our neighbors and say that we look forward to strengthening our valuable relationship with them. Working together, as we have been able to do, is the best way we can all assure that Lake Quinault will remain clean, beautiful and available for all citizens for many years to come,” she said.
Judge Leighton issued separate dismissal rulings for the Tribe and the DNR. The Court granted the Tribe’s motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The state dismissal was based on the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.