Housing, Land Use and Transportation 07/23/2010
CSAC SUCCESSFUL IN SEEKING PLATFORM CHANGES ON NATIVE AMERICAN
ISSUES AT NACo ANNUAL CONFERENCE
CSAC, working with a coalition of three other state associations representing New York, Idaho, and Wisconsin counties, has been diligently working to develop a proposal for comprehensive fee land into trust reform at the federal level. While this issue has been on the agenda for local governments around the country for decades, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar, No. 07-526 (2009), which cast significant doubt on the scope of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary’s authority to acquire land in trust for certain tribes – i.e., those tribes that were not recognized as of 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed, has presented counties with a rare window of opportunity to achieve much needed reform in this area.
CSAC has identified problems counties face with the fee land into trust process and filed extensive comments reflective of adopted CSAC policy in our federal advocacy efforts. From the perspective of state and local governments, the process now amounts to a practically unchallengeable federal decision that takes land out of local, county and state jurisdiction, with state and local governments receiving little notice, having no meaningful role in the process, and no means for mitigation related to loss of a tax base and/or impacts from future development on trust lands. Thus, counties face potential loss of revenue, while often burdened with the responsibility for increased service demands and costs associated with the development on trust lands.
The coalition’s draft comprehensive reform proposal would address changes to both the trust land process and regulatory standards the Secretary of the DOI uses to make trust land decisions. More specifically, the changes include: providing the state and local governments adequate notice of all partial or complete applications to have land acquired in trust provided by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, providing the Secretary and the tribe an option on how to proceed to achieve approval of the trust land application depending on the intended use for the land in the application, and providing important incentives for tribes and governments to work together to constructively address, in advance of trust application submittal, jurisdictional conflicts and environmental impacts.
In order to be more effective in our advocacy efforts for fee land into trust reform at the federal level, Supervisor Mike McGowan, CSAC Second Vice-President and Chair of the CSAC Indian Gaming Working Group introduced and ushered through the NACo process to successful adoption, platform language opposing a “fix” to Carcieri without our comprehensive reforms that address local government concerns with respect to proper notice, consultation, and meaningful input into the fee land into trust process.