BIA plans to place North Fork casino site into trust on Friday

The Bureau of Indian Affairs will be placing the off-reservation casino site for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians into trust on Friday, according to documents filed in federal court.

The BIA published notice of the acquisition in the Federal Register on December 3, 2012. Opponents, including the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians, filed a lawsuit within a 30-day window of appeal.

Litigation historically has prompted the BIA to "self-stay" the acquisition until the case is resolved. But the Obama administration has quietly rescinded the policy as a result of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Patchak.

In Patchak, the Supreme Court ruled that opponents can sue the BIA even after the land is placed in trust. Essentially, there is no longer any reason to "self-stay" land-into-trust acquisitions.

The shift was outlined by the Department of Justice in the lawsuit affecting the North Fork casino. Judge Beryl Howell acknowledged that the change in policy "disserves the public interest" but he refused to prevent the BIA from placing the site in trust.

"Nevertheless, absent a demonstrated likelihood that the [Interior' Secretary has acted improperly in transferring the Madera Site into trust for the purpose of developing a gaming establishment, enjoining that agency action would not be in the public interest," Howell wrote in a 53-page decision that was issued yesterday.

"Absent a preliminary injunction, the transfer of the trust lands will occur on February 1, 2013, and the North Fork Tribe will continue on its odyssey to make its long-awaited gaming complex a reality," Howell concluded. "Yet, none of the tangible harms identified by the plaintiffs (e.g., traffic congestion, increased crime, problem gambling, environmental effects) would be remotely likely to occur for some time."

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Stand Up For California v. DOI.

Get the Story:
D.C. judge declines to block Madera County casino (The Fresno Bee 1/30)

District Court Decision:
Stand Up For California v. DOI (January 29, 2013)

Federal Register Notice:
Land Acquisitions; North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California (December 3, 2012)

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Chukchansi Tribe sues to block North Fork Rancheria casino (01/11)

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