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Roseville, City of v. Norton

Citation: 33 ELR 20053
No. No. 02-0628, 219 F. Supp. 2d 130/(D.D.C., 09/11/2002)

The court holds that the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) when it authorized and issued a finding of no significant impact for the taking of land into trust for a California Native American tribe so that the tribe could build a casino. In the early 1900s the federal government recognized the tribe and set aside land for it, but in 1967, the tribe's reservation was terminated. In 1991, the tribe received formal recognition under the Auburn Indian Restoration Act (AIRA), which required the DOI to establish an economic development plan for the tribe and permitted the DOI to accept certain property in trust for the tribe's benefit. As part of its economic development, the tribe proposed a casino on lands the DOI would take into trust. After completing an environmental assessment (EA), the DOI authorized taking certain lands into trust for the casino. A citizens group and several towns brought suit alleging NEPA, IGRA, and constitutional law violations and, thus, sought to enjoin the DOI from taking the land into trust.

The court first holds that the DOI EA took a hard look at the water supply in the area of the proposed casino and reasonably determined, based on the evidence, that a casino well would not have a significant impact on area water supply. Similarly, the DOI properly considered the casino's wastewater disposal options. Likewise, the DOI EA sufficiently discussed the potential effect of the casino on the area's endangered and threatened species. And, the DOI properly identified the EA's scope of alternatives and addressed each in reasonable detail. The court next holds that the DOI did not violate the IGRA by failing to determine if taking the land into trust would be in the best interests of the tribe and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community. The IGRA provides an exception to the required determinations for lands restored to tribes that have been restored to federal recognition. "Restored lands" means lands that would return the tribe to its former position, not the lands that the tribe held originally when first recognized in the early 1900s. The court additionally holds that the AIRA authorizes the DOI to take into trust county lands for the tribes. The court finally holds that the citizens group lacked standing to bring constitutional claims under the Enclaves Act, the Statehood Clause, the Tenth Amendment, the Equal Footing Doctrine, and the Nondelegation doctrine, and if the group had standing, these claims would fail.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
William P. Horn
Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot
1155 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste. 1200, Washington DC 20036
(202) 659-5800

Counsel for Defendants
Steven E. Miskinis
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530