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Chumash Tribe's Camp 4 bill advances in Congress

Bree Zender/KCBX
A view of the Camp 4 property in the Santa Ynez Valley.

In Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ land parcel known as Camp 4 got a step closer to permanent status as “fee-to-trust” reservation land.

Although the federal government already added the property to the tribe’s official reservation, it did so administratively, through the U.S. Interior Department. And that decision is subject to appeal, which a coalition of Santa Ynez Valley residents have filed. The appeals prevent the tribe from building the housing they plan for the 1400-acre Camp 4 property until the appeal process is exhausted.

In the meantime, there’s a been a bill wending its way through Congress that will put an end to the appeals, and debate about the land’s use. The bill, HR 1491, has already passed the House. In late April, the bill went before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. On Wednesday, that committee took a vote.

“I'm happy to report...today Chairman Hovan called a business meeting [of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs] and they voted unanimously to advance our legislation forward for the full Senate consideration,” tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn told KCBX.

If the bill passes the Senate, Kahn says he’s hopeful Trump will sign it, because it’s uncontroversial, at least in the eyes of the tribe.

“Uncontroversial from a perspective of county support and agreements in place to protect any kind of impact,” Kahn said. “It's pretty consistent with other bills that he's already signed, so we feel like that's not an issue.”

The Santa Ynez Valley Coalition continues to oppose the bill's passage, and they oppose the tribe building any kind of development on the Camp 4 land.

“We are outraged by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee’s latest action,” said the Coalition’s spokesperson, Bill Krauch, in a statement released soon after the vote. “This action is a direct repudiation of the notion of protecting property rights. Make no mistake about it, what is happening in the Santa Ynez Valley could happen anywhere else in the country."

HR 1491 explicitly states no future gaming is allowed on the Camp 4 property.

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