Federal funds used for shooting range near sacred site
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The opening round in a legal battle over a sacred site in South Dakota began on Monday with the Bush administration promising not to allow plans for a shooting range to go forward without court approval.

Citing little involvement in the project, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez also asked to be dismissed from the case. U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier didn't immediately rule on the request.

Neither did she approve a motion filed by five tribes and an American Indian advocacy group seeking to protect Bear Butte -- where tribal members go to pray, hold ceremonies and make offerings -- from up to 10,000 rounds of gunfire a day. Their preliminary injunction request will be considered at a hearing scheduled for June 30.

Until then, Bonnie P. Ulrich, an assistant U.S. Attorney in South Dakota, said the city of Sturgis won't use federal funds to break ground on the shooting range. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided $825,000 of the $1 million needed to build the range.

The promise wasn't warmly embraced by the Indian coalition, which includes tribes from South Dakota and Montana. In recent court papers, they accused a regional HUD manager of lying to the court about the extent of the federal government's involvement and said Martinez shouldn't be removed.

"Martinez is the money man, spending federal money," the tribes wrote on March 18. "Without federal money, this project doesn't exist."

According to Charles A. Kreiman, the HUD manager, the shooting range has eaten up $313,800 in federal funds as of last week. The money is provided under the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Kreiman oversees CDBG funds out of Denver, Colorado.

The government is arguing that the mere use of HUD money doesn't create the "nexus" required for Martinez's involvement in the case. Ulrich also says HUD hasn't infringed on Indian religious rights.

The tribal plaintiffs are the Northern Cheyenne of Montana and the Rosebud Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux, Yankton Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux tribes of South Dakota. The Defenders of Black Hills, a grassroots organization, is also a plaintiff.

The case is Northern Cheyenne v. Martinez, No. 03-5019.

Recent Court Pleadings:
Tribal Memorandum (March 24, 2003) | Kreiman Declaration (March 21, 2003) | HUD Reply Brief (March 21, 2003) | HUD Motion to Dismiss (March 17, 2003) | Motion for Preliminary Injunction (February 28, 2003) |

Related Stories:
Judge to hear tribal suit against shooting range (3/19)
Four tribes file lawsuit to stop shooting range (03/04)