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WyoFile: War rages over Wind River Reservation boundary

Filed Under: Environment | Law | National
More on: border towns, eastern shoshone, epa, jurisdiction, northern arapaho, sovereignty, wyoming

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe are facing opposition from the state of Wyoming after Environmental Protection Agency recognized the tribes' authority:
In Wyoming, the latest incarnation of the old Riverton and reservation boundaries dispute arose after the Environmental Protection Agency ruled in favor of the Wind River tribes’ application to be treated as a state under the Clean Air Act. Because the ruling gives the tribes the right to be notified about air quality permits within 50 miles of the reservation, the boundaries of the reservation must be set as part of that ruling.

The EPA affirmed that the 1905 Land Act opened 1.4 million acres in the northern tier of the reservation to homesteading without diminishing the size of the reservation. Riverton, a town of some 6,000 acres, came into being during that part of the homesteading, although it was originally much smaller. The city considers itself outside the reservation, according to city and state government. The part of the reservation currently under dispute is some 170,000 acres originally sold to non-Natives during the period between 1905 and 1919. (See map)

Many state residents, most prominently Gov. Matt Mead, found not only the ruling but also the source of the ruling hard to swallow. Mead wondered how the EPA, a regulatory agency, had the right to make a ruling that Mead and state lawyers say could affect issues of criminal jurisdiction, civil law, water law and taxation.

Mead objected in his early comments to granting the tribe’s application to be treated as a state at all. In the meantime, the governor has written to tribal leaders to assure them that he respects their opinions, although he strongly disagrees. In the second month of the Treatment as State (TAS) conflict, he has focused his ire on the federal regulators in Denver and Washington.

“Governor Mead’s concern is with the EPA,” his spokesman, Renny MacKay, wrote in an email last week. “He believes it is outrageous that a regulatory agency alleges that it can set jurisdictional boundaries. He is not objecting to the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes being granted Treatment As a State status.”

Get the Story:
Can state and tribes share jurisdiction in Riverton? (WyoFile 1/28)

Related Stories:
Vehicle tax exemption limited for Wyoming tribal members (1/28)
Wyoming tribes criticize state for appealing EPA decision (1/13)
Wyoming Governor: EPA designation for tribes is 'unlawful' (1/9)
WyoFile: Wyoming objects to EPA designation for two tribes (1/8)
Wyoming plans appeal for tribal treatment of state designation (12/11)
EPA approves treatment as state status for Wyoming tribes (12/10)
Tribes in Wyoming seek treatment as state status from EPA (11/22)

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