UTE INDIAN TRIBE PROTECTS ASHLEY NATIONAL FOREST LANDS FROM UTAH ROADS PETITION

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UTE INDIAN TRIBE PROTECTS ASHLEY NATIONAL FOREST LANDS FROM UTAH ROADS PETITION

Ft. Duchesne, UT — August 28, 2019.

In May of 2019, the Ute Indian Tribe’s Business Committee met with high-ranking officials with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Forest Service in Washington, D.C. to express their concerns and opposition to a series of actions by the State of Utah, USDA and the Forest Service that would affect Ashley National Forest lands within the Tribe’s Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The Business Committee reminded USDA and the Forest Service that long-standing Federal case law made clear that more than 1 million acres of the Ashley National Forest are within the Tribe’s Reservation, are considered Indian Country and are under the concurrent jurisdiction of the Federal government and the Tribe.

The Business Committee was particularly concerned with the State of Utah’s Petition for a Utah-specific Roadless Rule that included Ashley National Forest Lands within the Reservation. Utah filed its petition with USDA on February 28, 2019. Utah’s petition sought state authority to build roads in an area where Utah has no authority or jurisdiction. In addition, Utah’s proposal to build roads in these wild areas would threaten the Tribe’s headwaters. Protecting water quality in the Tribe’s headwaters was one of the reasons Congress and the President originally reserved these forest lands in 1905.

In July 2019, USDA and the Forest Service determined that they could not move forward with Utah’s petition to build roads in roadless forests and in forest lands that are under federal and tribal jurisdiction and not under state jurisdiction. The Business Committee applauded the decision stating, “USDA and Forest Service followed the law and did the right thing. Utah’s petition never should have gotten this far.” The Business Committee continued, “How can we move forward if Utah keeps trying to re-litigate the past? Utah’s recognition of our Reservation boundaries and jurisdiction over these lands is long overdue.”

The Business Committee also raised concerns with Forest Service’s failure to consult and involve the Tribe in the new Ashley National Forest Management Plan and a recently signed “Stewardship Agreement” between USDA, the Forest Service and Utah. Under Federal law, the Tribe and the Forest Service manage forest lands within the Reservation—not Utah. In addition, USDA and the Forest Service are required to involve the Tribe in any land management decisions that may affect the Tribe’s interests.

The Business Committee is continuing to work with USDA and the Forest Service to ensure that Ashley National Forest Lands are managed according to tribal and federal standards, not state standards.

About the Ute Indian Tribe - The Ute Indian Tribe resides on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah. Three bands of Utes comprise the Ute Indian Tribe: the Whiteriver Band, the Uncompahgre Band and the Uintah Band. The Tribe has a membership of more than three thousand individuals, with over half living on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The Ute Indian Tribe operates its own tribal government and oversees significant oil and gas deposits on its 4.5 million acre Reservation. The Tribal Business Committee is the governing council of the Tribe.

Robert Lucero