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The Incredible Shrinking State

January 27th, 2014 - 7:15 am

Sadly, the headline isn’t a reference to Washington DC, but Wyoming instead — which just got quite a bit smaller. Really:

Why is the EPA altering state boundaries in Wyoming – and reversing over 100 years of established law? Well, apparently the city of Riverton now falls under the jurisdiction of the Wind River Indian Reservation. This, obviously, isn’t sitting well with the governor’s office – which is urging the EPA to reconsider its ruling and respect the rule of law.

Reacting to the decision to reduce the size of Wyoming by about a million acres, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead warned of the dangers to all Americans of this type of unilateral land redistribution by the EPA:

“I understand that the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes have a different opinion about the Wind River Reservation Boundary. My deep concern is about an administrative agency of the federal government altering a state’s boundary and going against over 100 years of history and law.

The relevant part of the Constitution is Article IV, Section 3:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

The language seems iffy, but transferring lands from Wyoming to an sort-of autonomous Indian reservation could certainly be construed as erecting a new state from parts of another. Certainly it seems to go against the spirit of the language.

What do you think? Is the EPA screwing a red state because the Founders didn’t strictly prohibit it?

All Comments   (6)
All Comments   (6)
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I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Is the EPA screwing a red state because the Founders didn’t strictly prohibit it?

yes

can anything be done?

john roberts
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
There are a few questions that need to be answered:

1) What does the treaty establishing the reservation say?

2) When was that treaty ratified? If it was after Wyoming statehood, did the Wyoming legislature sign off on it?

3) What in the Seven Circles of $^&*& does the EPA have to do with any of this? At the very least this is an issue for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
Treaties with Indian tribes are different from treaties with sovereign nations. For one thing, the reservation created by the treaty has much the same relationship with the federal government that the City of Riverton has with the State of Wyoming -- that of being a "creature" of the larger government and thus subject to change by duly enacted law.

Courts may have tried in recent decades to shield reservations and their resident tribes from this fact, but there was a whole lot of prior precedent establishing that Congress can alter reservation boundaries at will.

Calling this ruling an alteration of Wyoming's boundaries is hyperbole; the establishment of Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and all the other national monuments and forests, and awarding to BLM of ownership of so much of the state's land, already set a similar precedent in that regard.

The real outrage is that this last was done by an executive agency in direct defiance of Congress -- and that Congress is unlikely to defend its prerogative by reversing it or punishing the bureaucrats responsible.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'll agree it renders my second question moot, but it simply modifies the first to "What does the treaty, as modified by subsequent legislation, say?" And the last question, about why the EPA is making these determinations, stands.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
"And the last question, about why the EPA is making these determinations, stands."

Because Congress is letting it happen.
12 weeks ago
12 weeks ago Link To Comment
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