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EPA ruling changes nothing for time being in Riverton

Jan 17, 2014 - Ron Warpness, Mayor, Riverton


As mayor of the city of Riverton, I feel a strong obligation to respond to the recent EPA ruling declaring Riverton as Indian Country.

First of all, let me say that I am not an attorney. I am just an ordinary citizen who has lived in and loved Riverton for the last 70-plus years. I can tell you that wisdom and understanding do not necessarily come with years or elections. I will, however, from my position as mayor, share some thoughts on this very important matter and let the reader decide if they have merit.

The most troubling aspect of this whole affair is the unsettling apprehension that it is causing with our citizens. People ask me "what does this really mean to the non-Indians in Riverton?" I have to respond "I don't know." People ask me "what is the intent of the tribes?" I have to respond "I don't know."

It seems that every person has a different idea as to how to answer those questions, depending on what they want to have happen or their fear of what might happen. It is this unknown quantity, mixed to a large degree with personal racism and a past interaction among Indians as well as non-Indians that is causing the pot to simmer.

We have a beautiful county and community that I am worried is going to be set back years economically, as well as socially, by this Environmental Protection Agency action. The years it will take for the attorneys to resolve this issue in the courts will cost millions of dollars and untold heartache for our citizens. This ruling purportedly applies only to "air quality," however, the letter I received from the tribes the day after the ruling was made public talked about taxing and jurisdictional issues, and so the unintended consequences of this ruling for Fremont County and the tribes are unknown at this time.

I feel that the "chilling" effect among Indians and non-Indians in Fremont County may make the recent MOU proposed by former Mayor Vincent seem like a walk in the park if this boundary definition ruling is upheld.

It is my prayer that this issue is resolved quickly in the courts, but until that time it is business as usual for the City of Riverton. I would encourage all of our citizens to keep a cool head and work for the successful resolution of this new bump in the road.

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