NEAR SHELTON, Wash. - The decision that ended one major dispute and started another turned 40 Wednesday. The landmark Boldt decision restored some of the fishing rights of Northwest Tribes.
Federal Judge George Boldt issued his decision on February 12, 1974 that allocated half of the harvestable salmon in the Northwest to the tribes.
The Boldt decision also led to a persistent, uneasy relationship between the tribes and non-tribal sport and commercial fishermen. Every salmon season is marked by squabbles between how each side goes about catching prized Northwest salmon.
The ruling ended tense confrontations between police and tribal fishermen who refused to leave the river and went to jail, only to return and start fishing again.
Billy Frank Jr. was one of those fishermen who spent much of his youth in jail.
Today he is a celebrated leader who is respected by leaders of the same government that once imprisoned him.
Frank shared his table at a Boldt Anniversary Party near Shelton today with EPA Deputy Administrator, Bob Perciasepe who made a one day trip to Washington State to help Frank celebrate.
The two discussed a government commitment to curb climate change that threatens the salmon populations of the future.
But this day was mostly reserved for looking back at the sacrifices made by Frank and dozens of other demonstrators who wouldn’t give up their rights to the rivers and the salmon.