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Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been one of the nation's leading centers fighting to ensure that property owners are accorded all rights guaranteed by the Constitution. MSLF defends property owners who cannot afford to fight back against government lawyers and environmental groups to protect their property rights. MSLF's litigation has helped to ensure the preservation of one of America's most valuable and valued freedoms--the right to own and use property.

Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation v. Environmental Protection Agency

Why We Fight:

The Environmental Protection Agency may not subject Wyoming citizens who are non-Indians to the jurisdiction of tribal courts by ignoring a lawful conveyance, an Act of Congress, and over 100 years of federal and State court rulings.

Summary:

A 1905 treaty redrew the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation to exclude the small town of Riverton, but the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes asked the EPA to redraw those boundaries to encompass Riverton again. 

Legal Question:

Whether non-Indian landowners may be subjected to tribal jurisdiction after their land was ceded by the Tribes to the United States, and then purchased by settlers over 100 years ago pursuant to an Act of Congress that explicitly stated the land was outside the reservation’s boundaries?

Petitioner

Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation

Respondents

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Gina McCarthy, in her official capacity as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Shaun McGrath, in his official capacity as Region 8 Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Court:

Supreme Court of the United States
Opposition by the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation to the petition for Supreme Court review

In December 2008, the Northern Arapahoe Tribe and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe—both of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont and Hot Springs Counties in west central Wyoming—sought Tribe-as-State status under §301(d)(2) of the Clean Air Act, which provides an “express congressional delegation” to tribes of the EPA’s authority to regulate air quality on fee lands located within the exterior boundaries of a reservation.  The tribes expended 82 of their 87-page application arguing that they possessed jurisdiction over Riverton.  Because their application ignored a host of federal statutes and federal and state court rulings, in 2009, the State of Wyoming, the Wyoming Farm Bureau, and other entities filed comments opposing the application.

The Reservation, which is shared by the Tribes, was established in 1868.  In 1904, the Tribes signed an agreement with the federal government ceding 1,480,000 acres of land, which were to be opened for sale under the homestead, townsite, coal, and mineral land laws, which was entered into with the United States Indian Inspector in exchange for per capita payments to tribal members and capital improvement projects inside “the diminished reserve” or Reservation.  In 1905, Congress ratified the 1904 agreement.

In 1906, the ceded lands were opened for settlement by a Presidential Proclamation and allotments were sold to non-Indians in an area that today makes up Riverton.  In 1939, some unsold ceded lands were restored to the Reservation, but a significant portion was not.  Riverton is located wholly on lands ceded in the 1904 agreement and never restored to the Tribes.

On February 18, 2014, the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation filed a petition challenging the EPA’s decision.  On October 6, 2014, Wyoming filed its opening brief.  On December 5, 2014, the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation filed its opening brief.  On January 5, 2015, Riverton and Fremont County filed their opening brief and Ten States filed a friend of the court brief arguing that the EPA should be granted no deference in deciding the lawsuit.  On April 6, 2015, the EPA filed its opening brief.  On April 23, 2015, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe filed its opening brief.  On April 30, 2015, Indian Law Professors filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the EPA’s decision.  On May 28, 2015, Riverton Memorial Hospital filed a friend of the court brief urging that the EPA’s decision be reversed.  The EPA and Eastern Shoshone Tribe filed their response briefs on June 9, 2015, and June 10, 2015, respectively.  On June 22, 2015, the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation filed its reply brief.

On November 17, 2015, MSLF argued the merits before the Tenth Circuit.  During oral argument, the Tenth Circuit requested additional briefing on the issue of whether the case was moot because the Tribes had dissolved their joint governing body.  On December 1, 2015, the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation filed its supplemental brief, arguing that the case is not moot because, pursuant to the EPA’s decision, its members will still be injured by the exercise of federal rather than state jurisdiction over their farming and ranching activities.  On February 22, 2017, in a 2-1 ruling, the Tenth Circuit ruled in favor of Wyoming and the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation after holding that MSLF’s client has standing to challenge the EPA’s decision.  On July 10, 2017, the Northern Arapahoe Tribe and the Eastern Shoshone Tribe filed motions for rehearing en banc.  The EPA did not file a motion for rehearing.  On August 31, 2017, the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation filed its opposition to the Tribes' petitions for rehearing.  
On November 7, 2017, the Tenth Circuit denied the petitions for rehearing en banc.  The panel, however, sua sponte granted panel rehearing and issued a revised majority opinion and dissent. 

On February 16, the Tribes filed petitions seeking Supreme Court review of the Tenth Circuit’s ruling.

 


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