Tribal land causes confusion in Beltrami State Forest


Salmon colored parcels are tribal owned land. (courtesy MnDNR)

Berry pickers heading to the Beltrami Island State Forest this summer might be surprised to find their favorite blueberry picking spot is off limits.

The state forest in north central Minnesota between Bemidji and Warroad is a favorite of berry pickers and hunters.  But the forest is dotted with parcels of land owned by the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe and that land is now marked by new no trespassing signs.

The only change is new signs, said Red Lake Forestry Program Director Jeff Fossen, who added that the land has been owned by the Red Lake Nation for a long time.

It’s always been restricted to use by tribal members.  But it’s difficult to maintain signs on the dozens of parcels scattered throughout the state forest and  the signs tend to disappear, Fossen said, so non-tribal members might have been using the land without knowing it was off limits.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has received quite a few calls recently from people confused about the new signs.

“We are asking visitors to respect tribal lands and encourage folks with land ownership questions to call or stop by the local DNR offices to obtain a map of the Beltrami Island State Forest before they visit the area,” Adam Munstenteiger, DNR forest supervisor in Warroad, said in a statement.

With parcels scattered across thousands of acres of forest, it’s almost impossible to know where the tribal boundaries are without a global positioning system unit, Fossen said.

The new signs should help identify the tribal land boundaries.

The tribe wants to protect the land for use by tribal members.  Tribal conservation officers patrol the area and have nabbed a few hunters on tribal land in the past, according to Fossen.