Wilton Rancheria celebrates approval of gaming land application

Artist's rendering of the Wilton Rancheria's resort project in Elk Grove, Caifornia. Image by Wilton Rancheria

A day decades in the making has finally come for the Wilton Rancheria of California.

The tribe lost its land base after being unlawfully terminated by the federal government in the 1950s. But a decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, made on the final full day of the Obama administration, will result in the acquisition of a 35.9-acre site in the city of Elk Grove.

"After 58 years without a home, our people finally will have land,” Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said in a press release. “This has been a long and hard struggle. We now can tell our elders that their blood, sweat and tears will have been worth it.”

The BIA issued the record of decision for the tribe's land-into-trust application on January 19. A notice of the decision was signed that same day by the former leader of the agency, Larry Roberts, a political appointee of the Obama administration.

The notice, however, has not been published in the Federal Register, a step usually taken for similar casino land applications. In the days since January 19, it has not appeared on the public inspection list, essentially a preview of what's coming in the Federal Register.

The notice may in fact be stuck in limbo. After taking office on January 20, Republican President Donald Trump ordered the Interior Department, which includes the BIA, to hold "all Federal Register documents" until they can be reviewed by his team, according to a memo posted by The Wildlife News.

But it's not clear if the notice needs to be published in order for the tribe's land to be placed in trust. The BIA, back in 2013, eliminated a 30-day waiting period for trust land decisions.

Opponents of the casino, however, are insisting that the BIA did not place the land in trust despite what's in the record of decision.

"The casino is not a done deal. The land is not in trust," a group called Council on Prosperity and Accountability said in a statement that labeled news reports to the contrary as "fake news."

Non-Indian interests are still hoping to derail the casino by putting a land deal up for a vote in Elk Grove. City council members considered the issue at a public meeting on Wednesday night but did not make a decision, according to local reports.

The tribe was restored to restored to federal recognition in 2009 and started the land-into-trust process in late 2013.

Read More on the Story:
Elk Grove council postpones action on casino referendum (The Sacramento 1/25)
Elk Grove leaders push back controversial casino vote (KCRA 1/25)
Tribe gets casino land put into federal trust (The Elk Grove Citizen 1/25)
EG Casino Opponents Respond to Land Trust Announcement (The Elk Grove Citizen 1/25)
Tribe wins major ruling on Elk Grove casino project (The Sacramento Bee 1/20)

Federal Register Notices:
Final Environmental Impact Statement and a Revised Draft Conformity Determination for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 14, 2016)
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 29, 2015)
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Wilton Rancheria Fee-to-Trust and Casino Project, Sacramento County, California (December 4, 2013)

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