Feds file notice to take land into trust for Cowlitz Tribe

10.25.2014 Ron Karten Gaming, Federal government

The federal government filed a motion on Wednesday, Oct. 22, in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stating that the Department of the Interior intends to take land into trust in southwestern Washington state for the Cowlitz Indian Tribe as early as Jan. 21, 2015.

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has been trying unsuccessfully since 2002 to take approximately 152 acres into trust near La Center - about 15 miles north of the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area - so that is can build a mega-casino complex on the property.

However, the city of Vancouver, nearby property owners, Citizens Against Reservation Shopping and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde have filed lawsuits against the proposal, stating, among other things, that the Cowlitz Tribe's traditional homelands are about 60 miles farther north in the Toledo, Wash., area.

"It doesn't make sense for the Department of the Interior to take the La Center land into trust," said Tribal Chairman Reyn Leno. "That would allow the Cowlitz Tribe to move forward with its casino.  Then, if the court says it was illegal for the department to take the land into trust, the Cowlitz would have to close their casino. This is truly putting the cart before the horse."

Leno added that the Grand Ronde Tribe is staying on top of the issue.