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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on August 10th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 23 [ Submit a Story ]
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Camp 4 decision to go before House of Representatives


The U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously on July 26 to move a bill to the House floor that would affirm the Bureau of Indian Affairs decision to add Camp 4 to the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ reservation. The bill would also deny any further appeals to the decision.

House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs Chairman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale) penned the bill, H.R. 1491, which was met with protest from a few local representatives. Both U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) and 3rd District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Joan Hartmann sent letters to LaMalfa, urging the committee to delay the approval until an agreement could be made between Santa Barbara County and the Chumash.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously on July 26 to push a bill to the House floor that would affirm the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ fee to trust request for Camp 4.

“I strongly believe that a locally negotiated agreement concerning Camp 4 between the tribe and the county is in the best interest [of] my constituents, and would be an important step toward establishing a long-term collaborative relationship between the parties involved,” Carbajal wrote in the letter dated July 25.

The committee included both letters in the formal hearing record. In a statement released on July 27, Hartmann said LaMalfa’s willingness to amend the bill to include a local agreement between the county and the Chumash was encouraging.

However, Hartmann said she was disappointed with the vote, citing her request for more time for negotiation.

“Reaching a solution on the Camp 4 property that meets the needs of the community, the county, and the tribe is my top priority,” Hartmann said in the statement. “I vow to keep fighting to protect the character of the Santa Ynez Valley and will continue to work towards reaching a local agreement with the tribe.”

Santa Barbara County already appealed the Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs’ move to place the land into trust on behalf of the Chumash. Department of the Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Lawrence Roberts dismissed those appeals on Jan. 19 of this year.

The county responded with another legal complaint on Jan. 28, alleging that the bureau’s decision was “unlawful, arbitrary, and capricious.” The complaint says that the bureau violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by moving forward with the fee to trust process without considering the county.

“Defendants’ decision to take the subject land into trust failed to follow the regulatory guidelines governing fee to trust acquisitions and is unsupported by any other statutory or regulatory authority,” the complaint states.

The county Board of Supervisors discussed the case in closed session at its July 25 meeting, but had no action to report.

In a statement released on July 26, Chumash Tribal Chariman Kenneth Kahn said the House Committee on Natural Resources’ decision to move the bill to the full House was “a step in the right direction.”

“The committee’s action, and the Trump Administration’s recent decision to dismiss lawsuits alleging that Department of the Interior officials lacked the authority to take this land in trust, demonstrates that Washington, D.C., is upholding its trust responsibility to Native American tribes,” Kahn said in the statement.

The statement also expressed a willingness by the Chumash to “reach a mutually agreeable cooperative agreement that addresses land use and financial mitigation” with the county.

The Santa Ynez Valley Coalition—a group that formed to oppose the fee to trust efforts by the Chumash and to maintain “local control of land use in the Santa Ynez Valley,” according to the organization’s website—issued a statement of their own on July 26.

In the statement, coalition Chair Bill Krauch said the bill denies valley citizens and the county’s ability to challenge the Camp 4 decision because “their case is weak and ours is strong,” in reference to the Chumash and “their congressional allies.”

“This bill is an unacceptable denial of due process and justice,” Krauch said in the statement. “This legislation is just another example of bad faith on the part of the Chumash tribe.”

The Sun reached out to Carbajal and Hartmann for more comment, but both were unable to comment. Carbajal was on a congressional delegation visit to Israel and Hartmann was on vacation.

Editors note: This article has been edited to correct the last parpagraph. Aug. 10, 2017

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