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UPDATE: Lytton Rancheria on the west side of Windsor/rural Sonoma County

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UPDATE: Lytton Rancheria on the west side of Windsor/rural Sonoma County

By Betsy Mallace

The following is an update on the Lytton Rancheria desire to move land on the west side of Windsor/rural Sonoma County into Federal trust. 

There are only two legal ways for Indian owned land to move into Federal trust, one is thru the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the other is a special act of congress, passing an approved bill.  

The Lytton have had an application in with the BIA since 2009, it is still pending/not-approved. A tribal representative said last month “we’re still working on the legal justification for taking the land into trust”. So, the BIA will have to find some new legal justification before approving the application. Due to the new administration, there is currently no Interior Secretary nor a Secretary of Indian Affairs (BIA), which may further slow down the Bureau’s applications. 

Legislatively, a special act of congress would need to be passed for the land to move into trust. Rep. Jared Huffman’s bill HR2538 did not move forward and “died” in the close of 2016 congress. Rep. Jeff Denham, who does not represent our area, placed a new bill HR597, onto the House floor in January 2017. It is basically the same text as Huffman’s previous bill. It has many hurdles to pass, before it could be approved. If it does get approved, it could be completely changed (or “stripped” of many of its protections), so it does not give any guaranteed protection against gambling or large commercial development. 

The county signed a Memo of Understanding with the tribe (MOU) two years ago, which only go into effect if the land gets moved into Federal trust. It offers, some limited agreement for no gambling (but only for 22 years from the signing- or 20 years in the future, and only in a specific area). 

Not all Indian tribes have a legal right to Federal trust land, there are very specific requirements. At this time, if has not been proved that the Lytton meet these requirements. 

Additionally, the Lytton Rancheria has recently purchased the Salvation Army Lytton Springs property for $30.0 million, which was $6.0 million more than the asking price. They have owned the San Pablo Casino since 2002, which has been reported to earn more than $260.0 million a year.