Wilton Rancheria seeks to join lawsuit as gaming site is put in trust

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

The Wilton Rancheria is celebrating a historic milestone as it pursues a casino in northern California.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has placed the proposed gaming site in trust, according to news reports. The acquisition wasn't unexpected because the Obama administration had approved the tribe's application but now the decision appears to be official and final.

“We now have a home!” Chairman Raymond Hitchcock said at a press conference at the site on February 14, KCRA-TV reported.

A day later, the tribe was asking a federal judge for approval to join a new lawsuit regarding the acquisition. None of the other parties are opposing the tribe's involvement, according to a motion filed in court.

"The planned gaming resort is expected to bring financial security and self-sufficiency to the tribe and its 700 members," the February 15 filing reads. "Gaming income will be used to strengthen the tribal government and provide essential housing, educational, and other social services to the tribe’s members. The tribe’s interest in this litigation could not be more clear or substantial."

The lawsuit was filed by a small group called Stand Up For California and three individuals. The January 11 complaint targets a recent BIA regulation that allows the agency to place land into trust "immediately" rather than wait 30 days, as was the practice in the past.

The BIA developed the regulation in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Patchak. In that case, the justices ruled that opponents can sue the BIA for up to six years after land is placed in trust.

As a result, the BIA says it is no longer necessary to wait 30 days for any appeals to be filed. The Patchak rule eliminates the waiting period, which had been established by regulation in 1996.

Read More on the Story:
Federal approval ups the odds for casino in Elk Grove (KCRA 2/14)
Federal government grants Wilton tribe control of land for Elk Grove casino (The Sacramento Bee 2/14)
Elk Grove Casino Project Back on Track (Fox40 2/14)
With Wilton Rancheria’s Casino Land in Federal Trust, Will Elk Grove’s Supposed ‘Bedford Falls’ Give Way to ‘Pottersville’ (The Elk Grove News 2/14)
Land placed into federal trust for Elk Grove Indian casino-resort (The Elk Grove Citizen 2/14)

Also Today:
Raymond Hitchcock: The facts about the Wilton Rancheria's casino plan (2/20)

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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