Support fee-to-trust reform that increases notice and transparency, addresses the full spectrum of impacts on local governments, and requires that all off-reservation impacts be addressed through enforceable intergovernmental agreements.
Federally recognized Indian tribes can develop lands held in trust by the federal government without regard to local land use plans, such as the County General Plan. Such developments can result in significant adverse impacts on the county, its citizenry, services, lands, and infrastructure that the county may not have the ability to mitigate.
Sonoma County has five federally recognized tribes, each of which either has or seeks to place land into trust. The County has found that the fee-to-trust process lacks sufficient and necessary opportunities for local input given the significant local impacts that result. Recognizing the current limitations, the Board of Supervisors has taken a leadership role by working to influence regional, state, and national policy, and by negotiating intergovernmental agreements with tribes to mitigate impacts, limit gaming, and address services. Still, reform is needed at the national level and the County joins the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) in requesting that fee-to-trust reform take place as part of any legislative “fix” to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Carcieri v. Salazar decision.
The County urges the following essential reforms:
- Notice and Transparency – Provide local governments immediate notice when a fee-to-trust application is filed or amendments are made, including a change inland use. The County supports a public comment period of at least 60 days when applications are filed and when they are completed.
- Consultation – Existing fee-to-trust regulations allow for only narrow questions of tax revenue loss and regulatory jurisdictional conflicts to be addressed. Legislation should allow all relevant issues to be raised during the comment period.
- Enforceable Intergovernmental Agreements – Legislation must require that significant off-reservation impacts of a project, including environmental and economic impacts, are sufficiently addressed through Intergovernmental Agreements be-tween tribes and local governments. This approach is currently working well under recent California State gaming compacts. Such Intergovernmental Agreements reflect unique local concerns and should be protected from BIA interference.