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EPA ruling on reservation 'is unlawful' and 'cannot be honored by the state'

Dec 22, 2013 - Matthew H. Mead, Governor, Cheyenne

Editor:

The Environmental Protection Agency's administrative action expanding the Wind River Indian Reservation raises many questions. Here are a few of them:

What happens with sales tax? What happens to state facilities and programs in the area? What agencies are responsible for law enforcement? How are property rights affected?

People are asking these questions and more about the EPA's recent decision to approve the application (of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe to be treated as a state under provisions of the Clean Air Act) and the EPA's outrageous position that its decision applies beyond the exterior boundaries of the Wind River Reservation to non-tribal communities including like Riverton, Pavillion and Kinnear.

I share these concerns and I believe the EPA's action is wrong. I have asked Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael to take aggressive steps to overturn it.

I wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy last August stating that the tribes' application, if granted, had implications for criminal law, civil law, water law and taxation. I wrote that it would take away the voice of citizens in Riverton, Pavillion and Kinnear.

I provided the administrator with extensive comments submitted in June 2009 by then-Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg, which concluded that "[t]he language of the 1905 act, the events surrounding passage of that act, and the subsequent demographic history of the ceded area all show that the reservation was diminished."

The ceded area including Riverton, Kinnear, and Pavillion is not part of the Wind River Reservation.

I have asked Attorney General Michael to proceed quickly. This EPA decision cannot go unchallenged. I believe it is unlawful - it cannot be honored by the state. It is unfortunate that Wyoming - including Fremont County, the Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone - are being adversely affected by such ill-advised federal agency action - action that attempts to make sweeping changes to well over a million acres of land in Wyoming and turns more than 100 years of history on its head.