Friday, December 28, 2012
Minister's Join Fight Against OFF Reservation Casino at North Fork
It's all about money. And the greedy, corrupt leaders of nearby Chukchansi certainly don't like it.
A new legal challenge has been filed against the North Fork Mono Indians' proposed casino and resort project near Madera -- and more legal challenges may be on the way.
In a federal lawsuit filed last week in Washington, D.C., three Madera residents -- two of them ministers -- joined the Madera Ministerial Association and Stand Up For California, an opponent of off-reservation casinos, to challenge the federal government's approval of the project.
The lawsuit contends the U.S. Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs overstepped their authority earlier this month when federal officials put 305 acres along Highway 99 north of Madera in trust for the North Fork tribe to build a massive $200 million casino and hotel project. The lawsuit contends federal officials failed to consider the effects the casino could have on the environment or nearby residents.
It was the second lawsuit filed to stop the Madera casino in the past month.
Federal officials agreed earlier this month to put the land in trust for the tribe -- a key step necessary for the project to move forward. The decision came three months after Gov. Jerry Brown said the project could proceed, and he approved a compact with the tribe. The state Legislature still must sign off on the compact.
The new lawsuit -- and a similar suit challenging a casino proposal near Oroville -- is testing a U.S. Supreme Court decision from six months ago that rejected a federal trust decision involving a Michigan tribe. A Michigan man argued that the federal government did not properly consider the casino's effect on neighbors.
The suit also claims that the federal government can only put land into trust for tribes recognized before 1934. The suit contends the government did not provide proof that the North Fork Mono Indians were federally recognized before then.
"Citizens have put forth some objective evidence that will affect the (secretary of the interior's) decision about putting a casino in this location," said Cheryl Schmit with Stand Up For California.
Critics like Schmit say approval of the off-reservation casino will lead to a rush in applications for more.
But it has taken the North Fork Mono Indians nine years to get this far in the process, and they still haven't broken ground on their casino, North Fork officials said.
The 1,900-member tribe has 61 acres in North Fork, an area tribal members say is too remote for successful gaming. That's why they applied to the federal government for casino land 36 miles away.
Elaine Bethel Fink, the tribal chairwoman, said she expected legal challenges.
"We are disappointed because every day of delay costs the tribe and local community not only thousands of jobs but roughly $300,000 in lost economic activity," she said. "We are working through the process, and we hope to have this settled and bring these jobs as soon as possible."
Nedra Darling, a Department of Interior spokeswoman in Washington, D.C., said she couldn't comment.
The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians filed its own challenge Nov. 30. The tribe contends that a state environmental review is needed in addition to the federal review because land for the project was owned by Station Casinos when the federal study was done.
David Quintana, a Sacramento-based spokesman for Chukchansi, said more lawsuits are coming, including one from Chukchansi's bondholders.
The Chukchansi tribe has struggled to pay down debt from its hotel and casino project. The tribe refinanced more than $250 million of debt earlier this year.
Read more: http://india.nydailynews.com/newsarticle/8205a443877c980485614004d33098aa/ministers-join-lawsuit-against-madera-casino#ixzz2GN5ExRYX