United States v. Oregon
United States v. Oregon (302 F. Supp. 899) is the on-going federal court proceeding that enforces and implements the Columbia River treaty tribes’ reserved fishing rights. In his 1969 decision, Judge Robert C. Belloni ruled that state regulatory power over Indian fishing is limited because treaties between the United States and the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribes in 1855 reserved the tribes' exclusive rights to fish in waters running through their reservations and at "all usual and accustomed places, in common with the citizens of the United States [or citizens of the territory]." In this case, the court held that the state is limited in its power to regulate treaty Indian fisheries. Among other things, the court held that the state may only regulate when reasonable and necessary for conservation, provided: reasonable regulation of non-Indian activities is insufficient to meet the conservation purpose, the regulations are the least restrictive possible, the regulations do not discriminate against Indians, and voluntary tribal measures are not adequate.
In 1974, Judge George Boldt decided in a case referred to as United States v. Washington (384 F. Supp. 312) that Belloni's "in common with the citizens of the United States [or citizens of the territory]" was, in fact, 50 percent of all the harvestable fish destined for the tribes' traditional fishing places. The following year, Judge Belloni applied the 50/50 standard to United States v. Oregon and the Columbia River.
Fisheries in the Columbia River have subsequently been managed subject to provisions of United States v. Oregon under the continuing jurisdiction of the federal court. The Columbia River Fish Management Plan provided a framework for management from 1988 through 1998, although certain provisions were modified during that time to address concerns related to the increasing number of ESA-listed species. After 1998, fisheries were managed through a series of short term agreements among the parties,1 the duration of which ranged from several months to five years. The 2008-2017 United States v. Oregon Management Agreement provides the current framework for managing fisheries and hatchery programs in much of the Columbia River Basin.
1 The "parties" to U.S. v. Oregon include: the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho; the United States; the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.