[Editor’s note: The Board of Supervisors met Tuesday and agreed to continue the item until July 10.] Preservation of Los Olivos, P.O.L.O., a grass-roots citizen group, received notice on June 22, 2012, that the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has determined it will accept the 6.9 acres into federal trust for the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians. The letter from the BIA was stamp dated June 13. There are 30 days to appeal their decision.

Land in federal trust is removed from local and state jurisdiction and taxation. Use of land in trust is not restricted and can be changed.

The story of the 6.9 acre expansion began 12 years ago.

In 2000, the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians applied to take the 6.9 acres across from their casino (Chumash Casino) into federal trust. In their application to support their entitlement for expansion, they included federal code supporting “Gaming on lands acquired after Oct. 17, 1988, and Acquisition of Water Rights.” They also stated in the application, “By relocating the tribal hall and surrounding offices (to the 6.9) the tribe will be able to...in order to expand their gaming operations within the existing reservation area.”

It went through the BIA process and the BIA accepted the 6.9 acres into trust in 2005. The county did not appeal the BIA decision, instead attempting an agreement with the Santa Ynez Band that prohibited gaming on the 6.9. The BIA would not agree to prohibition of gaming. Because the county had not acted to represent almost 1,000 individuals who objected to the expansion, citizen groups filed and privately funded litigation against the Department of the Interior to protect their community.

“Following the failed historic agreement, in August 2005, the county attempted to file a Motion to Intervene or an Amicus Brief to support the citizen groups,” Cleary explained. “The BIA said they were too late.”

In the 2005 motion to Intervene, the county cited erosion of the county’s land use and planning authority, resident’s loss of protection of a public land use planning process, and the failure of the BIA and the tribe to identify and assess soil and groundwater contamination from the leaking gas tanks on an adjoining parcel. Other letters of opposition from the county included potential drain on water resources.

P.O.L.O. has been in ongoing litigation on the 6.9 since 2005. They submitted final documents in October 2010 and have been waiting for a decision since then.

“In this recent decision, the BIA is, yet again, blatantly ignoring harm to non-Indian individuals and decisions by United States Supreme Court. It continues to give itself the authority to review its own decisions and the authority to create the process to support its own decisions,” explained Kathy Cleary, P.O.L.O. board president.

“Our community, and the entire country, are now fully aware of how biased the fee-to-trust process is and are taking a stand against it.”

“P.O.L.O. is requesting that supervisor chairwoman Doreen Farr place this on the Board of Supervisor’s (BOS) agenda for public hearing on July 10, 2012, for the BOS to consider a vote to file a notice of appeal with the BIA& IBIA by July 12 (the deadline to file an appeal),” Cleary said.

The first step of the appeal process is a simple letter to the BIA.

“A strong county appeal of objection on this recent decision by the BIA is imperative to preserve their right and the right of the people to object to the 6.9 acres being taken in to trust,” Cleary continued.

“More importantly, the 6.9 is precedent setting because the Santa Ynez Band is making every effort for aggressive expansion to take 1,400 acres into federal trust, a move that has outraged our community. They have also purchased a number of hotels and other businesses and may next apply to take those properties into federal trust.”

In communities across the country, casino tribes have purchased surrounding businesses and properties, turning neighborhoods into casino towns.

“Fee-to-trust is a means for politicians to pander to big corporate gambling and special interests as evidenced by the Department of the Interior’s blatant disregard of the United States Supreme Court, and legislation such as CA SB 162 that attempted to silence any state agencies from opposing fee-to-trust. It is affecting communities all over the country,” Cleary finished.

P.O.L.O. encourages everyone to contact Supervisor Farr immediately to ensure the Board of Supervisors takes action. Email supervisor Doreen Farr: dfarr@countyofsb.org.