After five years of deliberation, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared the Wind River Indian Reservation its own state for the purpose of air quality monitoring. The decision, made under the Clean Air Act, will allow the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to apply for grants to support air monitoring programs, but it doesn’t give the tribes regulatory powers.
As part of the decision, the EPA had to determine what constitutes the exterior boundaries of the Wind River Reservation. And although some Wyoming lawmakers disagree, the federal agency found that the city of Riverton is within reservation borders.
Mark Howell, lobbyist for the Northern Arapaho tribe, says that has consequences beyond just air monitoring.
“That obviously has wide and varied implications,” Howell says. “Now as part of this process the tribes have specifically asked the federal government not to run headlong into implementing this determination, specifically with regard to things like criminal jurisdiction. The tribes want to be good friends with their neighbors.”
Howell says the tribes have already contacted Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness, inviting him to discuss the jurisdictional issues that will surely arise.
Governor Matt Mead issued a statement, saying "it is outrageous to me that a regulatory agency has proposed changing jurisdictional boundaries established by history and the Courts." Mead has asked the Attorney General to challenge the decision.