In a landmark ruling, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has approved the taking of all 1,400 acres of Camp 4, which the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians purchased in 2010, into federal trust.

The tribe received a Notice of Decision from the BIA regarding its Camp 4 land, which is located less than two miles from the tribe’s reservation. The NOD was issued just a year and a half after the trust application was submitted in July 2013.

“The NOD places us one step closer to getting our Camp 4 land placed into federal trust,” said Vincent Armenta, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “The sooner the land is placed into trust, the sooner we can move forward on building homes on Camp 4 for our tribal members and their families.”

In the 36-page NOD, the BIA acknowledged the 1,066 support letters received, included the tribe’s responses to comments received during the 30-day comment period and addressed the objections from opposition letters received.

Eight factors were considered by the BIA in formulating its decision, including need for additional land; proposed land use; and impact on state and local government’s tax base.

Among the key findings in the BIA’s thorough analysis, it was determined that the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has established a need for additional lands to protect the environment and preserve the reservation; that the property will serve to enhance the tribe’s land base and support tribal housing, infrastructure, and tribal self-determination; and that no significant impact will result from the removal of this property from the county tax rolls given the relatively small amount of tax revenue assessed on the subject parcel and the financial contributions provided to the local community by the Tribe through employment and purchases of good and services.

After a comprehensive analysis, the BIA in its NOD concluded: “Based on the foregoing, we at this time do hereby issue notice of our intent to accept the subject real property into trust.”

The tribe purchased the Camp 4 land in 2010 with a primary goal to build housing for tribal members.

“We have simply run out of room on our reservation to build homes for our tribal membership,” Armenta said. “Currently, only about 17 percent of our tribal members and lineal descendants live on our reservation. Placing our Camp 4 land into federal trust would provide us with an opportunity to build a tribal community that would accommodate current and future generations of Santa Ynez Chumash.”

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians owns several businesses in the Santa Ynez Valley, including the Chumash Casino Resort, Hotel Corque, Root 246, Hadsten House and two gas stations.

— Hildy Medina represents the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.