Federal law provides tribes the right to ask the Secretary of the Interior to transfer fee lands into trust for the benefit of the tribe. The trust acquisition process is lengthy and complex as the return of even a few acres of ancestral lands to tribal control can potentially impact state and local governments. In requesting the Secretary to acquire into trust approximately 305 acres of its historical land in Madera County, the North Fork Mono Rancheria is complying with all applicable local, state and federal laws, regulations and processes governing tribal land acquisition and gaming. Not only is the Tribe adhering to the letter of the law, it is also complying with the spirit of the law. For instance, although federal law does not require that the tribe have historical ties to the lands being proposed for the trust acquisition, the lands requested by the Tribe are within an area which the Tribe has used and occupied for centuries. The Tribe has also taken care to propose a location far enough from neighboring tribes to minimize any potential impacts to their gaming operations.
Propositions 5 and 1A permitted the building of casinos on Indian lands which are eligible for gaming. While the Tribe would prefer to have appropriate reservation lands on which to build a gaming facility, the only lands which are eligible for the Tribe to game upon are not owned by the Tribe and are located on a steep hillside near a scenic byway and adjacent to the Sierra National Forest. Consequently, the Tribe is seeking our right to acquire lands within the area our citizens and ancestors have used and occupied for centuries and to properly transfer them in trust.
The Tribe is adhering to the rigorous and transparent administrative process put in place by the federal government for this purpose, including final review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs of a comprehensive environmental impact statement. We have also entered into a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding with the County of Madera to mitigate potential impacts of our proposed project and to benefit the larger community. We have also reached similar agreements with the City of Madera and the Madera Irrigation District.
Indeed, as in any development project undertaken by the Tribe, we are employing a "responsible development" approach that is constructive, transparent, and respectful.