LEWISTON (AP) — The Nez Perce Tribe is suing the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest over claims that its large-scale timber sale and rehabilitation project violates federal environmental laws.
The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/29hU4O6) the Clear Creek Integrated Restoration Project is expected to produce 85 million board feet of timber, sustain more than 2,100 jobs and generate $60 million. The suit filed Saturday says the project will harm Clear Creek with sediment and negatively impact fish in the hatchery the forest manages.
The tribe has previously expressed concern with the project, but says the Forest Service hasn't addressed problems it has pointed out.
Tribal Chairwoman Mary Jane Miles says the tribe “has no other avenue'' to stop the project than with litigation.
Backers of the project have said it'll improve fish and wildlife habitat.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Native communities will now be able to have their land placed in federal trust after securing a victory in federal appeals court that could provide them with more federal funding to enforce criminal and civil laws.
Attorney Heather Kendall-Miller told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/29nvrDl) many Alaska Native communities desperately need the aid that comes with a land trust designation. She said it will help particularly with enforcement of liquor laws and in prosecuting bootleggers.
“As everybody has recognized for years, the state of Alaska doesn't have law enforcement to the extent that is needed or necessary in rural Alaska,'' Kendall-Miller said following the Friday ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The decision comes after the state appealed a federal district court ruling in favor of three Alaska Native communities — Akiachak, Chalkyitsik, and Tuluksak — that challenged the Department of Interior's interpretation of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The ruling struck down a decades-long rule the department used that barred it from putting Alaska Native land into trust.
The federal appeals court determined that the state's argument for an appeal was moot because the Department of Interior rule no longer existed and the state didn't put forward any new claims. However, one judge on the Court of Appeals disagreed and did find that the state had been arguing a different point than the Department of Interior.
Kevin Illingworth, a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor, said the state should not be upset with the outcome of the case.
“It would not take any authority away from the state,'' Illingworth said. “So, in the sense of establishing public safety in villages, it really does go a long way in being able to cross-deputize (and) have cooperative enforcement.''
By placing their land in trust, tribes allow the federal government to share ownership through the trust. The tribes then gain access to Bureau of Indian Affairs funding for economic development and transportation projects and get authority to institute and enforce their own laws on the land in trust.
Woodie Salmon, first chief of Chalkyitsik, said he hopes his community will apply for federal land trust, but acknowledged that “it's going to take time.'' He expects the state to continue fighting the case.
“We're really happy,'' Salmon said, ``but we don't want to be too happy.''
Gov. Bill Walker's office declined to comment on the ruling and directed questions to the Department of Law.
“We will review the decision as we do all appellate decisions and determine next steps,'' a spokeswoman for the department wrote. “We will go through our normal review process before making any decision.''
PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP) — A federal investigation into the deaths of three Pine Ridge men whose bodies were found in May has concluded that they died as a result of a car crash, ruling out foul play.
U.S. Attorney Randolph Seiler announced the results of the investigation Friday.
The bodies of 24-year-old Juan Lamont, 21-year-old Tevin Tyon and 23-year-old Tyrell Wilson were found May 23 in a steep ravine on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The men's families had been reported them missing more than two weeks before they were found.
Investigators say the car the men were riding plunged down about 60 feet and came to rest near a creek bed. Authorities say the men were found inside the vehicle amid numerous open and closed containers of alcohol and personal belongings.