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Pawlenty briefed on Lake Bemidji citations

Gov. Tim Pawlenty talks to reporters Friday night at Lake Kabetogama while first lady Mary Pawlenty watches. Pioneer Photo by Brad Swenson

KABETOGAMA - Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he was glad treaty protests on Lake Bemidji were non-violent but reiterated that people fishing out of season will be ticketed.

"Of course we expect everyone in Minnesota to follow the law," Pawlenty said Friday night in an interview. "If someone violates the law, then we're going to have to respond accordingly."

The Republican governor said he was briefed throughout the day of the happenings on Lake Bemidji, where some American Indians attempted to use gill nets on Lake Bemidji to protest rights under an 1855 treaty to hunt, fish and gather off reservation. Pawlenty will fish today on Lake Kabetogama as part of the Governor's Fishing Opener.

"It looks like there's been a violation on Lake Bemidji, in the Bemidji area, and those folks are being reviewed possible prosecution or citation," Pawlenty said.

Leech Lake and White Earth tribal leaders had asked band members not to carry out the protest, and while they are studying the 1855 treaty themselves, Pawlenty said there are no negotiations between the bands and the state at this time.

"They believe they have a claim, our DNR commissioner believes they do not," the governor said. "We expect everybody to abide by the law, and if they do not, then we'll have to respond appropriately. That's what we did today. I'm grateful for the tribal leadership saying they didn't condone the activities. We're grateful that it is so far peaceful.

"If there is a legal issue that can be contested, and fought in the courts, so I'm glad that people realize it's something that should be handled peacefully, and perhaps now it will shift to the courts," he added.

"Again, we expect everybody to follow the law, and we had some folks (Friday) who apparently did not and the conservation officers moved in and are reviewing and investigating it," Pawlenty said.

No negotiations are planned with the tribes, he said, signaling it will have to go to the courts.

For lack of a state budget agreement, Pawlenty remains Up North and plans to hit the waters at 7 a.m. He went at 3 a.m. last year, but said since he didn't catch anything at the early hour, he wasn't going to do it again.