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FCAG backs challenge to rez border ruling; calm response urged

Jan 20, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The recent Environmental Protection Agency opinion that ruled Riverton to be part of the Wind River Indian Reservation hasn't changed how the county and municipalities are operating.

Members of the Fremont County Association of Governments came to that consensus Thursday night during its monthly meeting.

"In the meantime it's business as usual," said Fremont County Commissioner Travis Becker, adding that FCAG supports Gov. Matt Mead's push to have the EPA revisit that ruling on the grounds that the agency doesn't have the authority to define the boundaries of the reservation.

Letter from EPA

Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness said he received a phone call from an EPA representative "apologizing profusely" for the trouble the ruling has caused him and city staff.

Pavillion mayor Gary Hamlin said Pavillion's point of view is set on waiting for the legalities to get sorted out and watching the situation with no speculation.

The exterior boundaries of the reservation also would extend to Pavillion and Kinnear if the ruling were to take effect.

Higher tension

The officials agreed that what seemed to be another big issue was tension building between tribal members and residents of Riverton and how it was being expressed.

"It's crap," Becker said about online posts and other comments in the news media. "As leaders we need to do everything to stop that."

Warpness blamed the anxiety and confusion on the "lack of communication and lack of trust."

He said that after the EPA announced the ruling,the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes sent him a letter that fo-cused more on taxation issues and jurisdictional boundaries rather than air quality monitoring, which, supposedly, was the basis for the request made to the EPA.

"They knew this was coming," Warpness said. "I don't know where it's headed."

The Wyoming Legislature's Select Committee on Tribal Relations met early in the month and included presentations from Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael, who filed a petition with Gov. Mead's support against the EPA ruling.

It was in that public meeting, Warpness felt, that the discussion focused on air quality.

Warpness said the city offices have been receiving more phone calls and e-mails inquiring about the issue.

He said he is troubled at not being able to provide residents with answers of how or when this ruling will affect them.

"It's that unknown and fear that is causing the anxiety," he said, noting that no one is opposed to clean air.

Both Shoshoni mayor Scott Peters and Lander community resource coordinator Gary Michaud echoed the comments of Becker that they'll be conducting business as usual as the ruling is challenged.