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Tribe's stay request a reversal of earlier opinion

Feb 12, 2014 - From staff reports

Last week, the Northern Arapaho Tribe requested a stay of a recent Environmental Protection Agency decision affecting the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation.

But in a letter last month, tribal representative from the Lander law firm Baldwin, Crocker and Rudd said the EPA doesn't have the power to stay implementation of the boundary decision, "other than with respect to certain environmental issues."

The December decision by the EPA approved the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes' request for Treatment as a State through the federal Clean Air Act. As part of the ruling, the EPA determined that a 1905 Congressional Act opening tribal lands --including the city of Riverton --to homesteading did not diminish the reservation boundary.

On Jan. 6, Wyoming filed a petition requesting the EPA reconsider and halt any implementation of the ruling until a final judicial decision has been issued. About 22,000 pages of documentation accompanied the petition, including affidavits from state agency directors outlining concerns about jurisdictional issues affecting law enforcement and other regulations on the disputed lands.

On Jan. 21, lawyers for the Northern Arapaho Tribe said "a stay would be ineffective." They did, however, add that a stay would "dampen anti-Indian sentiment and allow the state time to do its homework on Indian country jurisprudence."

The reference to "anti-Indian sentiment" was repeated in the Feb. 6 letter from Darrell O'Neal, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council. He requested the EPA stay its decision until local governments have a chance to discuss jurisdictional implications of the ruling.

He still thinks the state's request for reconsideration by the EPA should be denied "on the merits." O'Neal said the tribal request should be improved instead, but no stay should delay or restrict federal funding sought by the tribes in their TAS application.


In their Jan. 21 letter, tribal lawyers also pointed out that the state's petition and other materials were submitted "well after" the close of the EPA's designated comment period for discussion of the ruling.

"(The petition is) outside of the administrative process," the letter states. "Because the state's petition deviates from established procedures, we expect that EPA will not accommodate the state's request. If EPA departs from the normal process, we request consultation or the opportunity to respond more fully."

EPA officials this week said they are considering and evaluating the state's request.

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