Sen. Feinstein questions new casino land-into-trust strategy

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) is asking the Obama administration to pull back its new litigation policy regarding land-into-trust acquisitions.

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 But the Obama administration quietly rescinded the policy as a result of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Patchak.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

But Feinstein, who opposes the two off-reservation casinos at issue in the litigation, claims the change was made without tribal consultation. In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who will be stepping down from his post next month, she said the policy came as a "surprise."

"Given the significant unanswered questions and the lack of consultation as recommended by Executive Order 13175 which calls for 'meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials in the development of federal policies that have tribal implications,' I urge you to open a formal rulemaking process to resolve these outstanding issues prior to implementing this new policy," Feinstein wrote.

In court documents, the BIA said it was going to place the off-reservation casino sites for the Enterprise Rancheria and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians in trust on February 1.

District Court Decisions:
Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians v. Salazar (January 31, 2013)
Stand Up For California v. DOI (January 29, 2013)

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

Related Stories
BIA wins another ruling for California off-reservation casinos (1/31)
BIA plans to place North Fork casino site into trust on Friday (1/30)

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