A lawsuit was filed Tuesday by a Santa Ynez Valley group seeking to overturn the federal government’s decision to take the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ Camp 4 property into trust for the tribe.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court by the Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens and a trio of homeowners living near the 1,400-acre property, claims the Department of the Interior’s decision was based on an inadequate analysis of the environmental and land‐use impacts that would result from the subsequent development of the site.
Concerned Citizens and the homeowners filed the suit the same day the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved an agreement with the Chumash that, among other provisions, requires the county to drop its lawsuit challenging the fee‐to‐trust decision.
“Residents of the Santa Ynez Valley have exhausted the administrative remedies available to us, and we are now turning to the federal courts to seek relief from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ illegal action on Camp 4,” said Greg Simon, spokesman for the Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens.
“It impacts not only Valley residents, but places a tax burden on all county taxpayers,” Simon continued. “Consequently, we felt it imperative that the significant legal flaws with the federal government's Camp 4 decision be fully aired and adjudicated in federal court.”
The lawsuit alleges the analysis of environmental, land‐use, economic and other impacts, as required by federal law, was insufficient.
In the suit, the plaintiffs claim the Bureau of Indian Affairs should have required a comprehensive environmental impact statement, rather than basing its decision on the more limited environmental analysis that was conducted on the fee-to-trust action.
The lawsuit was immediately endorsed by another Valley group that has opposed the fee-to-trust decision.
“We are happy to support Concerned Citizens in their efforts seeking justice for the Santa Ynez Valley and preserving its rural character and natural environment,” said Bill Krauch, chairman of the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition.
“They are filling the void that has been left by the county, and we wholeheartedly support and endorse this endeavor,” he said.
According to Concerned Citizens, if the suit is upheld in court, it would reverse the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ decision to take the 1,400-acre Camp 4 property into trust and require the federal government to prepare an environmental impact statement.
That statement would have to be circulated for public review and comment, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs would have to re-evaluate the tribe’s trust application, taking information resulting from the more thorough analysis into consideration.
The stated mission of the Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens is “to inform, mobilize and articulate the concerns of the citizens of the greater Santa Ynez Valley on issues of land use, private property and stewardship of community resources.”