Return to the land: Cow Creek Band works to buy ranch

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians looks to purchase 1,700 acres of the Rogue River Ranch to be used for agricultural purposes
The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians is hoping to close the purchase of the Rogue River Ranch, a 1,700-acre cattle ranch at the base of the Table Rocks.Bob Pennell

The Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians is hoping to close the purchase of a 1,700-acre cattle ranch at the base of the Table Rocks that it intends to keep in agriculture, not use as a future home for a casino, tribal officials said.

If it is successful in purchasing the famed Rogue River Ranch along the Rogue near Sams Valley, the Cow Creek tribe could nearly double its agricultural holdings as it looks to diversify itself from relying on Indian gaming for profits, tribe spokeswoman Susan M. Ferris said Tuesday.

"There is a sale agreement pending, but it's not done yet," Ferris said. "The intent, if the sale goes through, is that the land will be used for agricultural purposes."

Ferris said the pending sale has nothing to do with the current dust-up between the Cow Creeks and the Coquille Indian Tribe over the Coquilles' attempt to gain approval for a new casino along South Pacific Highway in south Medford.

The Cow Creek tribe owns the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, while the Coquilles own North Bend's The Mill Casino. The Cow Creeks contend the Coquilles' plan to open a second casino in Medford violates a gentlemen's agreement that none of Oregon's tribes would build more than one casino.

The Coquilles have asked the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to begin a process that could lead to its Medford land becoming a casino.

"This has nothing to do with that," Ferris said. "Everyone knows Indian casino gaming will not last forever. Tribes working to diversify their economy know that."

Ferris said the purchase price has not been finalized, and declined to give a range. She said the negotiations, however, are for the purchase of the land from the Wood family and not the cattle on it.

The tribe already owns about 2,000 agricultural acres in Douglas County, along with a truck stop, RV parks and other holdings.

Ferris also declined to say whether the funds for the purchase came from the Canyonville casino profits.

In 2009, The Nature Conservancy purchased a different 1,700 acres of Rogue River Ranch property closer to Table Rocks than the lower-elevation lands that still are owned by the Wood family and are the target of the Cow Creeks' negotiations.

The conservancy sold 817 acres of property at Upper Table Rock to the federal Bureau of Land Management last November, according to the agency.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.



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