Environmental Issues in Tribal Land

Tribal governments are taking an ever-increasing role in environmental regulation on tribal lands. Regulation by tribes presents unique jurisdictional and regulatory issues not found elsewhere. Furthermore, entities operating in Indian Country may encounter environmental regulation by federal, tribal, state, and local entities whose policies, goals, and regulations may conflict with one another.

Our attorneys have years of experience with Indian law, the complexities of tribal jurisdiction, and the unique issues raised by tribal environmental programs. We have helped clients understand how tribal regulatory programs interact with federal and state programs and with the tribe's own customs and traditions. We have helped them negotiate often-conflicting requirements and demands by tribal, federal, and state governments and reach manageable solutions. And we have helped clients understand their options when facing potential proceedings before tribal agencies or litigation in tribal courts. Some of the issues we have dealt with in this area include:

  • Negotiating agreements governing tribal and federal regulation of air and water quality compliance by an electric utility on tribal lands;
  • Negotiating the settlement of Superfund liability arising from contamination of tribal lands;
  • Assisting municipalities in negotiating intergovernmental agreements with tribes on matters such as wastewater treatment agreements;
  • Counseling clients regarding complex jurisdictional issues involving the scope and limits of tribal authority over non-Indians;
  • Helping individual business owners and public entities with lease agreements and water rights issues on tribal lands;
  • Helping municipalities and public entities deal with jurisdictional issues that arise when tribes purchase property and remove it from local regulation by placing it in trust with the federal government;
  • Drafting comments on federal legislation and agency regulations involving tribal issues and working with legislators, agencies and other counsel on new laws and policies;
  • Participating in national and regional forums on tribal issues; and,
  • Presenting at seminars and to national organizations regarding tribal jurisdictional issues.

Through it all, we have helped clients develop and maintain positive relationships with tribal officials, agencies, and interested parties.