Thursday, June 4, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on May 8th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 10

Camp 4 bill passes House after months of volatility


It’s been a crazy few months for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, and the tribe’s long-standing effort to get Camp 4 officially placed into trust is starting to seem like a never-ending rollercoaster.

The Chumash got over another hump on that coaster on April 29, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution that, if approved by the Senate and the president, would affirm Camp 4’s fee-to-trust status with the federal government, adding the land to the tribe’s reservation and taking it out of Santa Barbara County’s jurisdiction.

“We are pleased that the House of Representatives voted without objection to pass our land affirmation act bill, [House Resolution] 317, which now moves on to the Senate,” Chumash Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn wrote in a statement. “This bill includes the memorandum of understanding with Santa Barbara County and a perpetual exclusion on gaming. Our tribe is committed to building tribal housing on our historical homelands.”

Kahn could not be reached for further comment before the Sun’s press time.

Camp 4 is a 1,400-acre parcel of land in the Santa Ynez Valley that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs placed into fee-to-trust with the federal government in January 2017.

After the acquisition, Congress forced the county to enter into negotiations with the Chumash regarding development on the land, and the Board of Supervisors officially entered into an agreement with the tribe on Oct. 31, 2017. The Chumash hope to build 143 housing units and a tribal administrative building for members on a portion of the land while keeping the rest for agriculture or environmental open space.

But on Feb. 13 of this year, Santa Ynez Valley landowner Anne Crawford-Hall successfully appealed the 2017 decision to take Camp 4 into trust for the Chumash.

In the decision, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Wilson found that Lawrence Roberts, who issued the Department of Interior’s decision on the 2017 Camp 4 fee-to-trust acquisition, was not authorized to do so. A few days later, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney announced her decision to take Camp 4 back into trust for the Chumash. On March 29, Sweeney reversed her decision, pulling the land from the Chumash once again. Sweeney cited endangered bird species in the area as the reason for her reversal and said an environmental review should be conducted.

If House Resolution 317 is approved by the Senate and president, it would bypass the Department of Interior’s recent reversal.

Bill Krauch is chair of the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition, an organization that has long opposed the Camp 4 fee-to-trust acquisition. The coalition plans to fight the bill’s passage through the Senate, Krauch said, adding that it’s inappropriate for Congress to bring the land into trust if the Bureau of Indian Affairs won’t do it.

“We do not feel—and in the last court hearing the judge implied that we were correct—that they used the proper environmental report when it was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs [in 2017],” Krauch said.

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