Cowlitz Tribe Reservation Update
The process of establishing a Cowlitz Tribe reservation continues after the recent legal decision by U.S.
District Court Judge Barbara J. Rothstein. The March 14th report in The Columbian that our casino plan
was thrown out by the federal court was misleading and deserves clarification. Our plans for a Cowlitz
reservation, homeland and casino are still intact.
Here is a brief history of what has happened in the last few years, and how the March 14 action by
Judge Rothstein fits in. The federal government issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in December 2010
approving the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and accepting the Cowlitz Tribe’s application
to place 152 acres west of the La Center Interchange (#16) into federal trust as a reservation.
In January 2011, opponents of our plans filed suit in federal court challenging the department's Record
of Decision and the Secretary of the Interior's legal authority to establish a reservation trust for the
Cowlitz people. After the lawsuits were filed, the federal government discovered that they had failed to
consider several documents that the opponents had provided for agency review and consideration.
The original 2010 ROD was amended through the supplemental ROD in 2012, finding that the misplaced
documents provided by the opponents did not change the government’s original conclusions. The 2012
supplemental ROD reaffirmed the government’s decision to establish a reservation for the Cowlitz Tribe.
The fundamental point of Judge Rothstein’s recent ruling was that the government did not properly
follow the federal Administrative Procedures Act in filing the supplemental 2012 ROD. She ordered the
government to prepare a new Record of Decision within 60 days, and dismissed the case challenging
the existing ROD. The court’s action was procedural and did not address the fundamental viability of the
federal decision to accept our trust application.
We are disappointed by the additional delay in gaining final approval to move ahead with developing
our reservation. But claims that our ability to establish a reservation has been stopped or that all our
work to date has been “thrown out” is absolutely not correct. We are confident that the government’s
position will remain in favor of enabling the Cowlitz Tribe to establish our reservation in the new Record
of Decision. We have waited 150 years for our reservation land base, and remain committed to pursuing
a sovereign homeland where development will help tribal members and the people of Clark County by
creating jobs and encouraging economic development that benefits all.
William Iyall, P.E.