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Fee-to-Trust Legislation for Chumash Camp 4 Land Dies in Congress

Congress left Washington without taking action on the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians Land Transfer Act of 2015, which would have put the tribe's Camp 4 property in the Santa Ynez Valley into trust.

The Chumash want to place the 1,400-acre property into a trust and build tribal housing on the land, and are hoping to continue discussions with the newly constituted Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors next year. 

Tribal leaders have pursued multiple routes for the fee-to-trust process and faced opposition from some local groups. 

The Santa Ynez Valley Coalition, which strongly opposed the bill, thinks Congress taking no further action on the legislation is a “victory for local control of land-use planning and common sense,” accordingn to member Leslie Mosteller.  

“Now, the stated housing needs of the tribe can be addressed without threatening the property values and the economic viability of the surrounding area and creating a huge tax burden on all Santa Barbara County citizens,” she said. 

The bill could be reintroduced when Congress reconvenes in January and restart the legislative process, according to the coalition.

“The tribe has struggled for years to provide adequate housing for its community,” said Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn. “Tribal housing is in the forefront of issues because our tribe is in a financial position to purchase a small fraction of our aboriginal homelands back. We have nowhere to build homes for our tribe residents.”

The tribe purchased Camp 4 — an agricultural property of Santa Ynez ranch land — in 2010 from the Fess Parker estate.

“Taking two different routes is because we are not making any progress with the county,” Kahn said. “We were making plenty of progress with the federal government.”

One course is the Fee-to-Trust application process governed by the U.S. Department of Secretary of the Interior under the authority of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act

Kahn said the tribe has been trying to work with the county since 2011, and proposed an action, but didn’t get any movement about a mitigation agreement.

“We weren’t able to make any progress with the county,” Kahn said.

In 2014, the Bureau of Indian Affairs agreed to place the land into federal trust, but the action was appealed by groups of private citizens and Santa Barbara County.

It is unlikely that Camp 4 will transfer into federal trust until the appeals are resolved, according to the Natural Resources Committee memo on H.R. 1157.

Additionally, the tribe has pushed for the legislative route or act of Congress — the bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale known as H.R. 1157.

Over the summer, the House Committee on Natural Resources voted 29-1 — with a no vote from Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara — in favor of moving H.R. 1157 out of that committee and to the floor of the House of Representatives.

“Both the administrative and legislative paths continue to move forward, and the tribe is confident that its Camp 4 land will eventually be placed into federal trust,” Kahn said. “The bill has provided a path for us to communicate with the county.”

There would be no other restrictions on land use — except, if the land is placed in trust, it wouldn’t be eligible for gaming.

“The tribe is a government and has the right to restrict land use further under tribal law,” Kahn said.

The Board of Supervisors Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Santa Ynez Valley Band of Chumash Indians Matters was created as a result of the demands made by Congress on the county from a June 2015 congressional hearing, according to a statement by the tribe.

The purpose of the group is to engage in discussions between the Board of Supervisors and the tribe regarding financial and land-use issues.

Tribal leaders want to continue meeting with the supervisors, who will have two members in January: Das Williams in the First District and Joan Hartmann in the Third District, which includes the Santa Ynez Valley and the Camp 4 property.

“I am eager to see that a dialogue between the county and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians continues in the form that best ensures progress in narrowing differences and coming to a mutually agreeable resolution,” Hartmann said.

“This new board as a whole, and in consultation with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, must determine the best way to move forward.”

Kahn said there is no set date for a meeting between the tribe and county officials. 

Negotiations have been paused due to the inability to find meeting dates as well as the scheduled December meeting cancelation, according to the tribe.

In a letter addressed to the board, Kahn said the inability to find time “questioned his optimism that absent congressional legislation (and that) the county has no interest in negotiating with the tribe.”

County Supervisors Doreen Farr and Peter Adams signed a letter in mid-November to the tribe stating the county would like to continue the discussion  after there is a transition of leadership with the Third District in January.

“Due to the transition, there will be changes to the county’s ad hoc subcommittee negotiation team,” according to the letter. “We look forward to continuing to work with you and your representatives in the New Year.”

In the interim, it was suggested the tribe and county “continue preparatory discussion on the key areas mutually agreed upon.”

Dennis Bozanich, deputy county executive officer, said the letter was fully intended to ensure conversation in the upcoming months.

There is no set date for the next meeting, Bozanich said.

The county’s ad hoc website also does not list an upcoming meeting date. 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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