KAMILCHE (May 10, 2005) – After their hunting season ends, Squaxin Island tribal hunters go back into the woods to clean up after themselves, and others. “We spend a lot of time picking up trash in the woods because we care about having clean forests as much as anyone,” said Pete Kruger, hunting policy representative for the tribe.

During a recent cleanup they found more piles of trash from many other sources other than tribal hunters. “Only about 10 percent Squaxin Island tribal members go into the woods to hunt around here,” said Kruger. “We don’t make the mess, but we clean it up.”

Household trash, including a pool table, old toys and an aquarium were picked up within site of the road. “Most of what we find is within 200 yards from the logging road gate,” said Mike Foster, a tribal hunter. “This is why they have to put gates on these logging roads, people just dump their trash back here.”

Squaxin Island tribal hunters have been cleaning up the woods for over 10 years. “This is a big part of our hunting tradition now,” said Kruger. “We get a lot of hunters coming back out to help.”

About a dozen hunters split up into four groups for the cleanup. They brought with them pickup trucks for appliances and the bigger pieces of garbage and trash bags for the more frequent piles of pop cans. “Last year we found a stolen car back here,” said Foster. “It was cut up into pieces, and after we hauled it out, we had a hard time getting rid of it because it was stolen.”

All of the land that tribal hunters cleanup is owned by the Green Diamond Resource Company. The tribe and the Shelton-based company have a successful, long-term working relationship and a formal agreement to allow tribal hunting on Green Diamond land. “We hunt exclusively on their land around here and picking up trash is a way for us to pay them back,” said Kruger. “We like to do anything to help them out and make our relationship better.”

“People think that there are these vast land tracts available for them to dump their trash and that someone else will take care of it,” said Patti Case of Green Diamond. “It’s an ever-increasing problem for us.”

“They don’t tend to be the ones that are making the mess, so it’s much appreciated that they come back and clean up,” said Case. “They clearly respect the land.”

Traditionally, the Squaxin Island Tribe depended on hunting as a major food source during the winter when salmon and other food weren’t readily available. That tradition continues today as wildlife still provides important nutrition to Indian families on reservations across western Washington. “We have a connection to these woods,” said Jim Peters, natural resources director for the Squaxin Island Tribe. “We care about how they are treated.”

“I’ve been hunting out here all my life,” said Kruger. “I don’t want to go walking in the woods surrounded by trash.”

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For more information, contact: Pete Kruger, hunting policy representative, Squaxin Island Tribe, (360) 432-3805. Emmett O’Connell, information office, NWIFC, (360) 528-4304, eoconnell@nwifc.org