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E-M:/ South Fox Island

Enviro-Mich message from "Upton, Brian" <BUPTON@mail.gtbindians.com>

Following is a press release on the circuit court decision in favor of the
Grand Traverse Band with respect to the Band's FOIA litigation against the

December 21, 2000

Circuit Court Finds for Grand Traverse Band on South Fox Island Document

PESHAWBESTOWN -   On December 19, 2000, the Leelanau County Circuit Court,
through Judge Phillip Rodgers, Jr., issued its decision and order in favor
of the Grand Traverse Band (GTB) in the Band's Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) lawsuit against the Michigan Department of Natural Resources
(DNR)[filed on August 9, 2000].  The court order mandates that the DNR must,
within one week, provide the Band with unredacted documents in response to
the tribe's October 1999 FOIA request for documents concerning the
controversial South Fox Island proposed land exchange.  The order also
awards attorney's fees and costs to the Band for having to go to court in
order to obtain the requested information.
	Michigan's Freedom of Information Act specifically requires that a
FOIA response be made within five days of receiving a request for documents.
The law allows for the state government to request a ten day extension, but
it may not extend its response time any longer than that ten days.*
Despite these provisions, the DNR took over five months to respond to the
Band's October 1999 FOIA request, and did not provide its legal
justification for making redactions to requested documents until April of
2000.  Judge Rodgers held that the DNR "has failed to show that its refusal
to disclose the requested information is compatible with the [Freedom of
Information Act]." (p. 7 of Rodgers' opinion)
	Unfortunately, it is becomingly increasingly obvious that the DNR is
intentionally trying to distract the Band with FOIA issues in an effort to
divert our (and the public's) attention from the proposed land exchange
itself.  This unfortunate strategy explains why the Band received, on
December 20th, a $3094 bill from the DNR for its response to the Band's more
recent FOIA request dated September 2000 (again covering documents related
to South Fox Island and the proposed land exchange).  In comparison, the
total DNR bill for our October 1999 request, which was a much larger request
yielding many more documents, was less than $470.  Persons familiar with
standard practices and billing under the state's FOIA procedures would
recognize that the DNR is clearly not acting in good faith with regard to
these South Fox-related document requests.   In addition to the outrageous
billing in its most recent invoice, the DNR has also, for the first time,
invoked another exemption from FOIA disclosure.  It has now refused to
disclose three documents which it says are exempt from disclosure because
they constitute communications of an advisory nature which are preliminary
to a final agency action.  The Band is going to make every attempt to
resolve the issues concerning its most recent FOIA request out of court.
	Tribal Chairman Robert Kewaygoshkum said that he believes that Judge
Rodgers' decision was a good one for the tribe and that it was also good for
the general public as well.  Kewaygoshkum stated that the situation "also
shows us that the DNR is trying to distract the tribe and the general public
from what is happening with the Fox Islands.  It's too bad we have to go
this route." [referring to the FOIA lawsuit]
	Christine Mitchell, GTB Conservation and Natural Resource Department
Manager, was very pleased with the news about the court order.  "We have a
right to this information. We're a voice on this issue; it's our tribal
right and we need to be heard," she said.
	Tribal attorney Brian Upton had this to say about the DNR's actions:
"It's unfortunate that the DNR is choosing to withhold information from the
public on the South Fox Island land exchange proposal and then waste
taxpayer dollars on trying to defend its position in court.  It is very
telling that the DEQ has not redacted documents like the DNR has done, nor
has the National Park Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."
	The Band continues to oppose the proposed land exchange between the
DNR and David Johnson on South Fox Island.  In a December 7, 2000 letter to
DNR Director K.L. Cool, GTB Tribal Chairman Robert Kewaygoshkum reiterated
the Band's offer to acquire the southern tip of South Fox Island and
maintain the existing public access to that property.  The Band has many
ties to South Fox, which is part of the tribe's treaty-ceded territory.  The
Island was the location of numerous allotments made to tribal members who
lived on the Island - some of which are the subject of unresolved land

For more information, contact: Robert Kewaygoshkum, Tribal Chairman, at
(231) 271-7499; or Brian Upton at (231) 271-7902.   This press release
references the case of Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians v.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, File No. 00-5310-CZ, 13th Circuit
Court, County of Leelanau.

* see Michigan Compiled Laws  15.235(2) 

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