Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde v. Jewell, No. 14-5326 (D.C. Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
The Cowlitz gained legal status as a tribe in the eyes of the government in 2002 and then successfully petitioned the Department of the Interior to take into trust and declare as their “initial reservation” a parcel of land. The Cowlitz wish to use this parcel for tribal government facilities, elder housing, a cultural center, as well as a casino. Two groups of plaintiffs, Clark County and Grande Ronde, filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq., challenging the Interior Secretary’s decision to take the land into trust and to allow casino-style gaming. The district court consolidated the actions and subsequently ruled in favor of the Secretary and Cowlitz. The court concluded that the Secretary reasonably interpreted and applied the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), 25 U.S.C. 461 et seq., to conclude that the Cowlitz are a recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction; the Secretary reasonably determined that the Cowlitz meet the “initial-reservation” exception to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.; and the court rejected plaintiffs' remaining claims of error under the IRA, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., and 25 C.F.R. 83.12(b), based on the Secretary’s alleged failure independently to verify the Tribe’s business plan and membership figures. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.