From: alra@governance.net
Subject: BIA Sneak Attack With New Tribal Casino Regulations

Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
Alliance Against Reservation Shopping
PO Box 400, Battle Ground, WA  98604
(360) 687-3087 – Fax:  (360) 687-2973
Web Address: http://www.landrights.org
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE - Washington, DC 20003 
mike@hardimanconsulting.com -- 202-489-4893

BIA Sneak Attack With New Tribal Casino Regulations

This is certainly one of the most important e-mails we have ever sent.

You will be astounded when you read the two stories below.

Whether you are concerned about the spread of tribal casinos or not, you must not allow the Interior Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to bypass due process.  That will only encourage the Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM and Forest Service to do the same thing.  Please play close attention to this

*****Action Items -- Be sure to pay attention to the Action Items below – This is a big deal.

New Tribal Gaming Regulations -- Comment Deadline Now April 20th.

You’re not going to believe this but the Interior Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs are trying to railroad through new regulations covering Indian Trust Lands and their relationship to proposed new casinos.

In large measure this is because Senator John McCain got mad at the BIA and George Skibine for not putting forward regulations for 18 years at a Senate Indian Affairs hearing February 1st.

So now Skibine and the Interior Department have taken this as a mandate to bypass all the rules regarding public notice, public comment, public meetings etc.
They’ve even left out most of the major press. 

The BIA made it clear they only wanted the four meetings at places heavily impacted by tribes.  For example the first meeting was held at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, the second largest casino in the world.  The few outsiders that came were clearly intimidated.

The second meeting was at the National Indian Gaming Association convention in
Albuquerque, New Mexico where there were 10,000 Indians.  Do you think critics of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Interior Department were welcome?

There are two more meetings coming up in Sacramento April 18th and Minneapolis on April 20th.  

The tribes largely like the proposed regulations because they think they can head off meaningful reform from Congress.  They don’t like the McCain bill even though it does very little in the way of real reform.  It includes a grandfather clause which makes the bill largely meaningless and vastly expands the number of tribes who will squeeze under the wire. 

They certainly don’t like the Pombo bill and want it to have a grandfather clause added by amendment at the mark-up.    

Read Mr. Skibine’s comments below carefully.  It is easy to see this is a biased process.  Look below in 2nd article for Skibine comments on how he is sympathetic to tribes concerns and may make changes/weaken as a result.  Never once in front of Congress has he indicated sympathy with congressional concerns.  Of course, George is a tribal member himself, as our most BIA employees, so perhaps it is understandable that his sympathies may lie with the tribes.

You will see below the obvious bias in the process.  The only press talking about the hearings in Indianz.com.  It looks like the regular press got bypassed an nobody knows about it.  

For those who want to accuse American Land Rights of bias, we helped save the Osage Indian Tribe from the Park Service and Nature Conservancy in 1986.  

I never thought I would see stealth regulations but that is what BIA and George Skibine are doing with the apparent support of the Interior Department.  The Forest Service and Park Service would never try this kind of railroad job.

As amazing as this sounds, George Skibine, the head of tribal gaming for the BIA, is planning to finalize and publish his new regulations by May 1st.   So far we have not been able to find a actual deadline for the comment deadline but it will be shortly after the last meeting discussed below, April 20th.  We have to assume the deadline for comments is April 20th or shortly thereafter.  You have very little time to take action.

*****Action Items

-----1.  Call your Congressman at (202) 225-3121.  Ask for the staff person who handles Indian Affairs.  Ask for 90 day extension to the comment period for the new BIA Indian Gaming Regulations (PART 292 - GAMING ON TRUST LANDS ACQUIRED AFTER OCTOBER 17, 1988).  Tell him or her the BIA has failed to notify the public, hold broad public meetings, notify cooperating agencies and generally has tried to lock out the public.  This is an easy request for  them to grant.  It is about process.  They don’t need to take sides.

-----2.  Call both your Senators at (202) 224-3121.  Ask them the same as above.
You need to follow up with this and insist that they make this request.  This is about process.  You must have fair access to the process.  

-----3.  Go to www.landrights.org to get a copy of the proposed regulations.  We just set the regulations up for posting today, so it may be a day or two before they are actually up on the website. 

-----4.  Write a letter with your comments about the new regulations and fax AND e-mail it to George Skibine, BIA, Fax: (202) 273-31253 – E-mail:  george_skibine@ios.doi.gov;   James Cason, Action Deputy Secretary, Fax:  (202) 208-1873 – E-mail: james_cason@ios.doi.gov;  and Acting Secretary of                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
Interior Lynn Scarlett, Fax:   (202) 208-5048 – E-mail:  lynn_scarlet@ios.doi.gov 
Your comment can be one page or as many as you need.    

-----5.  Call Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  Make it clear the BIA is subverting the rules for publishing new regulations and suggesting that it is because of him.  While he doesn’t run the BIA and Interior Departments, he has certainly intimidated them.  Ask his staff if McCain intended for the BIA to bypass all the rules, not allow full public comment, not publicize the process and generally try to keep out anyone who is not a member of a tribe.   Call (202) 224-2251.  Send a fax to (202) 224-5429.   Send an e-mail to Jeanne Bumpus at Jeanne_bumpus@indian.senate.gov or John Tahsuda at john_tahsuda@indian.senate.gov.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      


BIA plans four meetings for Section 20 regulations
Tuesday, March 28, 2006 

Amid Congressional efforts to curb off-reservation casinos, the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Monday announced a series of meetings on new land-into-trust regulations. 

Setting an aggressive timetable, the BIA plans to hold four meetings throughout Indian Country in the coming month. The effort begins this Thursday on the Mohegan Reservation in Connecticut and ends on April 20 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

The goal is to take input on a draft proposal the BIA released in January. The agency, for the first time since the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, is developing standards for the acquisition of lands to be used for gaming. 

Lands acquired after 1988 generally can't be used for casinos. But Section 20 of IGRA contains four exceptions that apply to newly recognized tribes, restored tribes, tribes in Oklahoma with former reservations and tribes with a land claim settlement. 

For tribes who cannot meet the exceptions, Section 20 provides an alternative. Under the two-part determination process, a tribe may open a casino on newly acquired lands with the approval of the BIA and the concurrence of the state governor. 

According to widely publicized statistics, only three tribes have opened casinos on off-reservation land under the two-part determination process. But a far greater number -- at least 30, based on independent counts and BIA officials -- are gaming on land taken into trust under the four Section 20 exceptions. 

Coupled with dozens of proposals -- both rumored and actual -- to open casinos on land far away from existing reservations, the issue has generated controversy in recent years. Key members of Congress have introduced bills to gut Section 20 by eliminating most of the exceptions and the two-part determination process. 

The BIA's proposal effectively maintains the status quo. Rather than break new ground, it mainly codifies existing procedures and guidelines for the acquisition of new lands for gaming. 

But neither the BIA nor the bills that have been introduced in the House and the Senate address a situation that has arisen in Oklahoma. A small number of tribes in the northeastern part of the state have been able to expand their gaming empires by acquiring new lands by skipping the Section 20 process altogether. 

Yet other tribes in the state, including small tribes in eastern Oklahoma and larger tribes in western Oklahoma, have run into roadblocks when they try to acquire land for gaming and non-gaming purposes. Tribes across the nation report similar delays, blaming it on the cloud hanging over off-reservation casinos. 

"My mother tried to put grazing land into trust," Kurt Luger, the executive director of the Great Plains Indian Gaming Association, said at a state governors' conference. "It took her 17 years." 

With pressure mounting in Congress -- the Senate Indian Affairs Committee is set to vote on a bill to alter Section 20 tomorrow -- and among the public, the BIA hopes it won't take as long to establish the new regulations. George Skibine, the director of the Office of Indian Gaming Management, is the lead on the project and plans to finalize the proposal by late summer. 

For two-part determinations, the notable parts of Skibine's proposal would: 

* require consultation of local governments within a 10-mile radius of the proposed off-reservation casino.

* require consultation of nearby tribes within 50 miles of the proposed off-reservation casino.

* require tribes to submit financial projections, consulting agreements and financial agreements, and require tribes to disclose possible adverse impacts and plans to address those impacts.

* create a 60-day comment period, with possible extensions, to consult with local governments, state officials and nearby tribes 

For the exceptions, the notable parts of the proposal would: 

* define "contiguous" as "land(s) sharing a common boundary, or adjoining with nothing intervening. However, parcels of land are contiguous even if separated by roads, railroads, other rights of way, or streams." This definition applies mainly to the Oklahoma former reservation exception.

* require tribes to obtain Congressional approval for a land claim settlement and obtain state or federal court approval of the settlement before gaming on land acquired through the settlement.

* require newly recognized tribes to stay within their service area for an off-reservation casino. If no service area is defined, the tribe must demonstrate "significant historical and cultural ties" to the land being sought for an off-reservation casino.

* require restored tribes to obtain an act of Congress to acquire restored land, or demonstrate a "modern connection" to the land being sought for an off-reservation casino. Several criteria are laid out to determine the modern connection. 

In addition to the four meetings, the BIA is accepting written comments until April 20. Sometime after that, the proposal will be published in the Federal Register and will be open for additional comments. 

No further meetings, however, are being planned, according to the BIA. Along with skipping Oklahoma altogether, the BIA doesn't plan on going to the Rocky Mountain region or to the Great Plains, the location of the largest Indian land base. 

The schedule is as follows: 

Thursday, March 30: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn. 

Wednesday, April 5: 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Albuquerque Convention Center, San Miguel Rm. 330 Tijeras N.W., Albuquerque, N.M. 

Tuesday, April 18: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Radisson Hotel Sacramento, 500 Leisure Lane, Sacramento, Calif.

Thursday, April 20: 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Crown Plaza, 2200 Freeway Blvd., Minneapolis, Minn. 



NIGA supports gaming rules but opposes McCain bill
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 

The nation's largest tribal casino organization put its weight behind the Bush administration's new gaming regulations in a bid to oppose Congressional efforts to clamp down on the $20 billion industry. 

Meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last week, the National Indian Gaming Association passed two resolutions on the matter. The first backs the Section 20 proposal that would establish standards for the acquisition of land for casinos. 

"NIGA supports the promulgation of regulations by the Department of Interior, working directly with tribal governments," the resolution states. 

The second opposes S.2078, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act Amendments. In the resolution, NIGA says the bill that was approved by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee on March 29 "infringes on Indian sovereignty and tribal self-government, unnecessarily burdens economic development and lawful business transactions, and creates new bureaucratic roadblocks and mandatory agency reviews" that will harm the industry. 

NIGA's stance drew an endorsement from retired Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colorado), the former chairman of the committee who now works as a lobbyist in Washington. "We are concerned that the Senate bill creates too much new federal bureaucracy and we believe that the issue of off reservation gaming can be dealt with through regulation," he said last week. 

The Section 20 regulations aim, for the first time, to clarify how lands are taken into trust for gaming. They would establish standards for off-reservation casinos and other types of casino development in Indian Country. 

In contrast, S.2078, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the current chairman of the committee, goes further by outright eliminating certain types of off-reservation casinos. Newly recognized and restored tribes who want to engage in gaming on land is currently not part of a reservation would face harsher limits. 

Tribal leaders and attorneys say the Section 20 draft that was issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs is not perfect. At a consultation session that took place in Albuquerque on Wednesday, they criticized several parts of the proposal as placing too many burdens on tribes. 

But they feel they have more power to influence the BIA's rulemaking process. At the session, George Skibine, the official spearheading the Section 20 regulations, agreed with many of the concerns raised and said he would take other suggestions into account. 

"We hope to get a lot of information on this draft document," said Skibine, the director of the BIA's Office of Indian Gaming Management. 

The Congressional process, on the other hand, poses a tougher battle. With gaming, and tribal affairs in general, under a cloud due to the Jack Abramoff scandal, Indian advocates in the nation's capitol fear a free for all could spell disaster. 

McCain, however, insists change need to be made to the industry. In addition to curbing off-reservation gaming, his bill beefs up the powers of the National Indian Gaming Commission to regulate and oversee tribal casinos and tribal casino deals. 

Committee aides who were in Albuquerque last week didn't know when the bill would head to the floor. "We'll continue to encourage active review, especially by the tribes, of the bill as it is pending," John Tahsuda, the deputy staff director for the Republicans, said during Wednesday's session 

"I don't necessarily know what the chances [of passage] exactly are but there's going to be an effort to move the bill," said Allison Binney, the general counsel for the Democrats, on Thursday during the Federal Bar Association's annual Indian law conference that took place in Albuquerque. 

Since the passage of IGRA in 1988, there have been no significant amendments to the law. Conflicting federal, tribal and state interests have prevented legislation from moving forward.

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