CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, July 23, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2467, Bridgeport Indian Colony Land Trust, Health, and Economic Development Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for approval. The bill was introduced on July 8, 2011, by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources. The bill was reported, as amended, by unanimous consent on July 23, 2012.
H.R. 2467 would require the federal government to take approximately 39.3 acres of land into trust for the benefit of the Bridgeport Indian Colony of California. Of this acreage, a 31.86-acre tract is contiguous to the tribe’s existing 40-acre reservation, and a 7.5-acre tract is located off the tribe's reservation. When the government takes land into trust, the federal government holds legal title but the beneficial interest remains with the Individual Indian Tribe.
According to the Natural Resources Committee, the Bridgeport Indian Colony is a small group of Paiute Indians who came to reside on federal lands near Bridgeport, Mono County, California, in the late 1800's. The lands on which they were residing were patented to a homesteader, who reportedly obtained the patent after falsely certifying that no Indians occupied the lands. In 1974, Congress enacted Public Law 93-451, which authorized the transfer of a 40-acre parcel of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in trust for the benefit of the Tribe.
The Tribe's reservation is located about a quarter mile from Highway 182, separated by undeveloped federal land administered by the BLM. The Tribe reports that it has no additional space on its existing reservation for economic development and new housing. Previous attempts to acquire mostly unused BLM land to add to the Tribe’s reservation have been frustrated by a variety of bureaucratic delays and certain local political opposition that has been resolved.
H.R. 2467 places in trust for the Bridgeport Indian Colony two tracts of federal land currently administered by the BLM. One is a 32-acre tract located along Highway 182, adjacent to the Tribe's existing reservation, which the Tribe says it will use for housing and related community development. While the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act generally prohibits gaming on lands acquired in trust after October 17, 1988 (the date of enactment of IGRA), the 32-acre parcel of land placed in trust under H.R. 2467 would be eligible for gaming under an exception made for lands contiguous to a reservation in existence on October 17, 1988. The Tribe testified that it has no immediate plans to pursue gaming because the remote location of the Tribe and the sparse population of Mono County (estimated to be 13,000) do not make a casino viable; however, the Tribe will not rule out gaming in the future.
With respect to its current development plans, during the Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 2467, the Tribe submitted into the record a copy of a binding Memorandum of Understanding it entered into with Mono County to mitigate the off-reservation impacts of the trust acquisition authorized in the bill. Over the last year, the Bridgeport Public Utility District (PUD) brought to the Committee’s attention its desire for an existing sewer line easement across the 32-acre parcel to remain with the BLM for use by the PUD customers.
According to CBO, enacting H.R. 2467 would have an insignificant effect on direct spending; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply. Under current law, BLM collects $1,500 annually under a Recreation and Public Purposes Act lease with the Toiyabe Indian Health Project (which controls the smaller parcel of land). Under the bill, those receipts would no longer be collected.