Northern Wisconsin town pays tribe $24,000 to keep reservation roads open for another month

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A northern Wisconsin town has paid an American Indian tribe $24,000 to keep reservation roads open to the public through mid-August in an increasingly costly dispute over access to the tribe’s land.

The town of Lac Du Flambeau’s easements on 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) of roads on the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s reservation expired about a decade ago. Renewal negotiations have failed. The tribe barricaded the roads in January, preventing non-tribal property owners from accessing or leaving their homes except to buy food and other essential items such as prescription drugs.

The tribe’s stance prompted the property owners to sue in February seeking a federal order to open the roads permanently. The U.S. Justice Department has filed a federal lawsuit as well supporting the tribe, arguing the town has been trespassing on the reservation since the easements expired. Both lawsuits are pending.

The tribe agreed in March to open the roads for 90 days in exchange for a $60,000 payment from the town. That deal expired June 12 but the town paid the tribe another $22,000 to keep the roads open until Wednesday.

The tribal council in May adopted a resolution calling for access payments to increase by $2,000 every month going forward. Records posted on the town’s website indicate the town has agreed to pay the tribe $24,000 to keep the roads open until Aug. 12.