Wyoming opposes EPA ruling that moves Riverton into Wind River Indian Reservation

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UPDATE (April 2): The Casper Star-Tribune reports Wyoming Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso have drafted a bill, with the aid of Gov. Matt Mead’s office, to refute the EPA decision that Riverton is part of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Read the story.

Feb. 14The Casper Star-Tribune reports that the Wyoming Attorney General filed a petition on Friday, Feb. 14, in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling that Riverton is part of the Wind River Indian Reservation. The action follows a Thursday announcement from EPA that it was staying its decision

Feb. 10: The Casper Star-Tribune reports that Wyoming lawmakers have introduced legislation to earmark money for the state to battle the federal government over the Environmental Protection Agency's ruling that Riverton is part of the Wind River Indian Reservation. Read Kyle Roerink's story.

Jan. 27: An Environmental Protection Agency decision that more than a million acres in Wyoming, including the town of Riverton, remain legally within the Wind River Indian Reservation has drawn criticism from state officials.

EPA WyomingThe decision by EPA, according to an Associated Press story, resulted from a 2008 application by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes to have the reservation treated as a separate state under the federal Clean Air Act. In December, EPA granted that application, which gives the tribes standing to be consulted on activities within a 50-mile radius of the reservation boundary on activities that promise to affect air quality.

The federal agency also announced that a 1905 federal law opening part of the Wind River Indian Reservation to settlement by non-Indians didn't extinguish the land's reservation status.

In other words, as Ron Feemster reported in WyoFile: "The ruling holds that land that the state, Fremont County and the city of Riverton consider to be under local jurisdiction is, in fact, Indian Country. And as part of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the city and surrounding area could be subject to federal policing, among other laws."

Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael in early January filed a request with the EPA asking the agency to stop any action to implement its decision. Gov. Matt Mead has said he will challenge the EPA decision in court because it calls into question state jurisdiction over the disputed lands on a range of issues including law enforcement and environmental regulation.

The state has until Feb. 18 to file its appeal in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Lawyers for the tribe have written to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and EPA Regional Administrator Shawn McGrath in Denver, urging them to reject Wyoming's request, suggesting the state does not understand the difference between land ownership versus the sovereign authority over the territory.

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