Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lytton Rancheria of California update

Congressman Huffman has shared some recent correspondence with the Town.

On December 2, 2015, Congressman Huffman wrote to Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior to seek clarification on a few issues with respect to the Department of the Interior's position on the land-to-trust process and the Lytton Tribe's application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

The Congressman asked for a description of the Obama Administration's stance on taking lands into trust; whether the Carcieri v. Salazar case was an insurmountable obstacle for tribes seeking land-to-trust decisions such as Lytton; and whether the federal government would enforce agreements between the tribe and local governments, such as Memoranda of Understanding prohibiting gaming on trust land, and whether the BIA would enforce a no-gaming provision if not required by federal statute.

In a letter dated December 17, 2015, Mr. Washburn responded to Congressman Huffman, and explained that the Department of the Interior considers taking land into trust for tribes as one of its highest priorities. The Department hopes to take approximately 200,000 acres of land into trust in the coming year to support the Obama Administration's goal of acquiring half a million acres of new trust land. He further notes that the Department has applied a case-by-case methodology to land-to-trust applications in light of Carcieri, and has prevailed in courts even in the face of challenges by opponents citing the Carcieri decision. Mr. Washburn notes that nearly all of the 300,000 acres of land taken into trust so far during the Obama Administration has been taken into trust following the Carcieri decision. The Department intends to apply the case-by-case analysis to determine whether it affects Lytton's application. A determination has not yet been made with respect to the Lytton's application. Further, the letter notes that the federal government does not enforce agreements between a tribe and a local government, and that tribes and local governments cannot overrule Congress on matters of federal law. The letter closes by stating that tribes presumably have a right to conduct gaming if such gaming is lawful under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

In transmitting these two letters to the Chair of the County Board of Supervisors and Mayor Millan of Windsor, Congressman Huffman notes that without his bill, HR 2538, there is every reason to believe the BIA could and very likely would grant Lytton's pending trust application before the end of 2016; that the land would come into trust with none of the federally enforceable limitations and restrictions in HR 2538; and that Lytton would be eligible for gaming if permissible under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, unless it chooses not to do so.  Thus, unlike the Huffman legislation which makes no-gaming a condition of the land being taken into trust, the BIA itself would not make a no-gaming provision part of its trust grant and therefore would not enforce a contractual no-gaming provision.  
Copies of the letters have been placed on the Lytton page of the Town's website under the section Correspondence by Congressman Huffman: