- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming’s two U.S. senators are working on legislation to prevent Riverton from being considered part of the Wind River Reservation after a federal agency ruled the city was on Indian land.

The bill would declare that the city’s 171,000 acres have never been part of the reservation shared by the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho and will remain outside its borders, the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1dRrNws ) reported Wednesday.

The legal status of the land has been a point of contentious disagreement for many years between the tribes and state and local governments over taxation issues as well as criminal jurisdiction.

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded a 1905 federal law opening over 1 million acres of the reservation to non-Indian settlement didn’t extinguish its reservation status.

The decision came in response to an application from the tribes to treat the reservation they share as a separate state for purposes of implementing the federal Clean Air Act.

The bill by Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso was drafted with the help of Gov. Matt Mead’s office. It is being reviewed and has not yet been introduced, said Enzi spokesman Coy Knobel.

Sen. Enzi doesn’t want to change the current boundaries,” he said. “He wants to make sure they stay as they have been for decades.”

Mead has blasted the EPA decision, saying it’s up to Congress to determine reservation boundaries.

Northern Arapaho Business Council member Al Addison said tribal members have asked Enzi and the rest of the Wyoming delegation to reconsider the bill.

“We are prepared to deal with this,” he said. “But tribal members at Wind River should not be misled. The people in leadership for Wyoming are not our friends.”

The Eastern Shoshone seem less worried about the bill. Tribal attorney general Kimberley Varilek said such legislation can avoid costly litigation.

“I think once the tribe has the chance to review the proposed bill they will certainly reach out to the congressional delegation and engage with the senators and the state of Wyoming in regards to the impacts across the board,” Varilek said.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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