Federal EPA Ruling: Riverton is part of Indian Country, 1905 law did not diminish Tribe’s claim; Wyoming to appeal

Wind River Indian Reservation, including areas north of the Wind River.  (USGS Map) 

UPDATE: This post has been corrected. There was an error in the Governor’s statement provided to County10.com. There is no 60 day comment period.

(Cheyenne,  Wyo.) – The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an unpublished decision that congressional action in 1905 did not change the legal status of some 1.5 million acres north of the Wind River including Kinnear, Pavillion and Riverton. The EPA ruling said the federal law enacted by the 53rd Congress that opened up reservation lands around Riverton did not extinguish the land’s reservation status.

The ruling was made in a Tribal petition to the EPA to have the Wind River Reservation treated as a separate state for purposes of implementing the Clean Air Act.

Fremont County, the State of Wyoming, and Wyoming legislators had filed comments in the application opposing the Tribe’s application.

Governor Matt Mead’s office was informed of the decision at 6 p.m. Monday night. The EPA had apparently transmitted copies of the decision to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes on Friday.

Mead had a strong reaction to the ruling: “The State received the EPA’s unpublished decision granting the Tribes “Treatment As State” status at a 6 p.m. meeting on December 9, 2013. The changes put forward by the EPA would not go into effect until this decision is published in the Federal Register,” he said. “It is outrageous to me that a regulatory agency has proposed changing jurisdictional boundaries established by history and the Courts. I have asked the Attorney General to challenge this decision and defend the existing boundaries of the reservation.”

In his letter last August opposing the application, Mead wrote: “”The tribes’ application, if granted, has implications for criminal law, civil law, water law and taxation. It also takes away the voices of citizens in Kinnear, Riverton and Pavillion.”

Riverton City Administrator Steven Weaver said city hall has already been receiving calls on the ruling. He said some tribal members, who were not identified, have been calling wanting their sales taxes refunded, while other city residents are enraged at the ruling. “This certainly doesn’t help the relationships we’ve been trying to build with the reservation,” Weaver said. He also reiterated what the governor had said, noting that the ruling is from a regulatory agency and pertains only to the Clean Air Act.

A formal statement from the city is copied below.

In a prepared statement, Northern Arapaho Business Council Chairman Darrell O’Neal Sr. said his tribe was “extremely pleased” with the EPA ruling. “It affirms what the tribe has believed all along, that Riverton and the area north of the Big Wind River is a part of the Reservation.”

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett also reacted to the ruling this morning. “Until the U.S. Supreme Court says otherwise, it’s business as usual in my office.”

UPDATE at 11:37 a.m.

Copied below is the statement from the City of Riverton:

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