The EPA essentially redrew State of Wyoming boundaries and moved three towns onto the Wind River Indian Reservation. If the controversial decision by the Environmental Protection Agency survives legal challenges, one million acres of land was transferred out of the state without any type of Congressional approval. The city of Riverton is home to 10,000 people. Two other small towns were also included in the EPA decision that has upset state officially and residents immensely.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead has this to say about the EPA moving his constituents onto the Wind River Reservation:
“My deep concern is about an administrative agency of the federal government altering state’s boundary and going against 100 years of history and law. This should be a concern to all citizens because if the EPA can unilaterally take land away from a state, where will it stop? It is outrageous to me that a regulatory agency has proposed changing jurisdictional boundaries established by history and the courts.”
The State of Wyoming is challenging the EPA boundary alterations which took state land, in court. In 1868 all three of the communities were established within the Wind River Reservation boundaries. In 1905 Congress changes the boundaries of the reservation when opening up the central region of the state for homesteading. The Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes that resided on the land at the time challenged the removal of the communities in court and lost.
If the legal appeal by Governor Mead and Attorney General Peter K. Michael is not successful, the state will lose all authority over the towns. The Riverton mayor recently received a letter from the Northern Arapaho Business Council suggesting he deputize his police officers as tribal police so that prisoners at the local Wyoming jail can be transferred into tribal custody.
The letter from tribal leaders also said:
“There are at last two valuable federal tax incentives available to enterprises within Indian country. The PA decision should now allow Riverton business to use accelerated property depreciation to obtain employment payroll tax credits through the IRS.”
Local and state officials, as well as Riverton area residents have deemed the altering of Wyoming state boundaries nothing more than a land grab. The critics also maintain that the EPA made absolutely no effort to inform anyone of the pending relocation of the three towns onto Indian reservation land.
According to the governor’s office, no one from the EPA ever met with the state leader to inform him of the imminent loss of the towns. “We did not know anything until we read about it in the news and started getting calls from the media for comment,” Riverton city official Steven Weaver said.
What do you think about the EPA snagging land away from the state and making property owners residents of the Wind River Reservation?
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