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Akiachak Native Community v. United States Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20118
Nos. 13-5360, (D.C. Cir., 07/01/2016)

The D.C. Circuit held that Alaska may not block any efforts by the United States to take tribal land into trust within Alaskan state borders. In 1971, the United States settled land claims staked by descendants of Alaskan aboriginal tribes. DOI interpreted that settlement as barring it from taking land into trust for Native American tribes within the state. But several tribes sued DOI, challenging the regulation implementing that prohibition. The state of Alaska intervened as a defendant, but brought no independent claim for relief. The district court held that DOI's interpretation was incorrect. Following notice and comment, the agency revised its regulations and dismissed its appeal. But Alaska disagreed with both the lower court and DOI and sought appeal of the case. But because it has no independent claim for relief, and because the controversy between the tribes and DOI is moot, the state's appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Even assuming, as Alaska argues, that the lower court's interpretation injured the state, such injury cannot extend the court's jurisdiction by creating a new controversy on appeal.