May 21, 2003 — Olney Patt Jr., who led the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs for five years as tribal council chairman, has been named the new executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
Patt, 51, replaces Donald Sampson, who served for six years in the position before announcing in March that he was returning to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation as its executive director. Patt will begin his new job June 16.
Representatives of CRITFC's four member tribes (Warm Springs and Umatilla tribes, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the Nez Perce Tribe) unanimously selected Patt in an executive session meeting May 14, and his appointment was announced during the commission's monthly meeting in Portland. Patt is CRITFC's eighth executive director in its 26-year history.
Allen Slickpoo Jr., CRITFC chairman and a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, credited Patt's extensive experience in fisheries management, his background with the Pacific Salmon Commission (the U.S. -- Canadian group formed in 1985 to implement the Pacific Salmon Treaty), and his strong political relationships with other tribal leaders, governors, landowners and members of Congress.
"He creates consensus and common ground among the various salmon interests in the region, including fisheries managers and politicians. He's worked in the Deschutes River Basin with the irrigation and ranching communities, as well as on land acquisitions throughout the John Day. He has fisheries in his heart," Slickpoo said.
Rob Quaempts, CRITFC commissioner and member of the Umatilla Tribe's Fish and Wildlife Committee, said Patt's knowledge of the tribes' ongoing fisheries issues gives him confidence the new executive director "will be able to hit the ground running."
"He'll fit into the new role for which our outgoing executive director has established a very high benchmark," Quaempts said.
Prior to becoming chair of the Warm Springs Tribal Council in 1998, Patt served as CRITFC chair from May 2000 to May 2001 and has been a commissioner since 1995.
He was a member of the Warm Springs Tribe's Off-Reservation Fish and Wildlife Committee from 1995 to 1998, and he was assistant policy advisor for the fisheries arm of the tribe's Natural Resources Department. he has been the senior policy advisor for the department since 1999.
Patt earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1991. He is a member of the board of directors for the Institute for Tribal Government at Portland State University's Hatfield School of Government, and he has served as a member of the Kah-Nee-Ta Resort's board of directors. He also is a member of the board of regents for The Museum at Warm Springs.
Patt said he doesn't plan any sweeping changes at CRITFC and that "everyday activities" will continue. But there are urgent issues the commission will need to address soon.
"It's not likely that the biological or legal landscape will change anytime soon," he said. "One issue that encompasses a lot of challenges we have is renegotiation of the Columbia River Fish Management Plan, including harvest, of course, but also production and rebuilding commitments, and to get there we have to overcome some new challenges such as the Endangered Species Act."