Crawford-Hall v. United States

Decision Date13 February 2019
Docket NumberCase No. 2:17-cv-01616-SVW-AFM
Parties Anne CRAWFORD-HALL et al. v. UNITED STATES of America et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of California

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UNITED STATES of America et al.

Case No. 2:17-cv-01616-SVW-AFM

United States District Court, C.D. California.

Signed February 13, 2019

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A. Barry Cappello, Lawrence J. Conlan, Wendy Welkom, Cappello and Noel LLP, Santa Barbara, CA, for Anne Crawford-Hall et al.

Rebecca M. Ross, Dedra S. Curteman, US Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Divison, Washington, DC, for United States of America et al.



Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiffs

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Anne Crawford-Hall, San Lucas Ranch, LLC, and Holy Cow Performance Horses, LLC ("Plaintiffs"), Dkt. 51, and by Federal Defendants the United States of America et al. (the "United States"), Dkt. 52, regarding Plaintiffs' First, Third, and Fourth causes of action. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on Plaintiffs' First cause of action, the Court DENIES summary judgment to both parties as to Plaintiffs' Third and Fourth causes of action as unripe, and the Court STAYS further proceedings in this action.

I. Factual Background

In 2010, the Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians (the "Band" or the "Tribe") purchased over 1400 acres of real property in Santa Barbara County, California, locally known as Camp 4 ("Camp 4" or the "Property"). Complaint, Dkt. 1 ("Compl."), ¶ 39; Answer, Dkt. 30 ("Answer"), ¶ 39. Camp 4 is located directly across the street from Plaintiffs San Lucas Ranch, LLC and Holy Cow Performance Horses, LLC, each of which is managed by Plaintiff Crawford-Hall. Id. ¶ 14. Camp 4 was previously owned by Ms. Crawford-Hall's family. Id.

In June 2013, the Band filed an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA"), a federal agency within the Department of the Interior ("Interior" or the "Department"), requesting that BIA take Camp 4 into trust pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, 25 U.S.C. §§ 5101 et seq. (the "IRA"). See Administrative Record ("AR") 0030; see also 25 U.S.C. § 5108 ; 25 C.F.R. part 151. The application was supplemented in July 2013, see AR0032, and revised in November 2013, see AR0080. The trust acquisition would allow the Band to exercise full tribal governance and sovereignty over the property, with limited state or federal government interference. AR0194.14. The Band's primary goal for placing Camp 4 in trust was to facilitate the construction of additional housing for the Band's members, which would also advance the Band's efforts to bring tribal members and lineal descendants back to the Band's tribal community in order to protect and maintain the Band's heritage and culture. See AR0194.13-14.

A. Environmental Review

In considering the Band's application for trust acquisition for the Camp 4 property, BIA conducted an environmental review pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq. ("NEPA"). In August 2013, BIA prepared a Draft Environmental Assessment (the "Draft EA") and made the Draft EA available for public comment for a total of 90 days. AR0194.8, 12; see also AR0127. In May 2014, BIA issued a Final Environmental Assessment (the "Final EA"), totaling almost 2,000 pages, that analyzed the potential environmental effects of the trust acquisition pursuant to the Band's application. See generally AR0194.

In the Final EA, BIA addressed a wide variety of environmental issues, including land resources, water resources, air quality and climate change, biological resources, cultural resources, socioeconomic conditions and environmental justice, transportation and circulation, land use, public services, noise, hazardous materials, and visual resources. AR0194.15. The Final EA identified three reasonable project alternatives and analyzed the potential environmental consequences and potential cumulative impacts for each alternative. See generally AR0194.17-35; AR0194.120-193. The three alternatives are the following:

• "Alternative A" comprised of 143 five-acre lots for residential housing across approximately 793 acres, and
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included 206 acres of vineyards, 300 acres of open space or recreational land, 98 acres of riparian corridor, 33 acres of oak woodland conservation, and 3 acres for utilities. AR0194.19; see also AR0194.20-28.

• "Alternative B" was largely the same as Alternative A, with the exceptions that Alternative B featured 143 one-acre lots for residential housing across only 194 acres, added 30 acres for tribal facilities, and converted the unused residential area into a total of 869 acres for open space and recreation. AR0194.19; see also AR0194.28-32.

• "Alternative C," or the "no action alternative," considered the environmental impacts if the Camp 4 property was not acquired in trust. AR0194.19; see also AR0194.32.

BIA compared the three alternatives to assess the relative benefits and environmental impacts for each alternative. AR0194.32-35; see also AR0194.120-153 (environmental consequences of Alternative A); AR0194.153-72 (environmental consequences of Alternative B); AR0194.173-75 (environmental consequences of Alternative C); AR0194.176-91 (cumulative effects for Alternatives A and B). In comparing Alternative A to Alternative B, each of which satisfied the Band's objective to obtain Camp 4 under tribal jurisdiction, BIA determined that "Alternative B would result in additional beneficial socioeconomic impacts through the development of additional tribal facilities." AR0194.35. BIA assessed Alternative C and determined that rejecting the Band's trust application would not pose many of the potential environmental effects discussed in connection with the other alternatives. Id.; see also AR0194.173. However, BIA also determined that rejecting the Band's application would result in increased groundwater usage based on representations from the Band that there would be an expansion of the existing vineyard on the Property, which would not occur if the Band's application was approved. AR0194.173. BIA ultimately concluded that "[d]espite the proportionately greater overall effects on the environment of Alternatives A or B, none of the identified impacts would be significant and unavoidable, following implementation of protective measures and mitigation recommended in this document." AR0194.35.

BIA also considered mitigation measures for the proposed trust acquisition under Alternatives A or B to minimize or eliminate certain adverse impacts. AR0194.194-204. Proposed mitigation measures include, among others: best management practices to minimize impacts to soils (AR0194.194-95); restrictions on where new groundwater wells can be constructed on the property and prohibitions on turf grass irrigation during years of local drought conditions (AR0194.196); measures to protect air quality, largely aimed toward vehicle use on the property (AR0194.196-97); protections for biological resources in the area, such as the preparation of an arborist report to provide a revegetation plan for oak trees and the implementation of habitat sensitivity training for construction contractors and other personnel on the property (AR0194.197-200); the use of buffer zones around cultural resources (AR0194.200); monetary contributions from the Band for traffic improvements (AR0194.201-02); and a requirement for the Band to enter into an agreement with the county fire department to provide fire protection and emergency response services to individuals living on the property after it is taken into trust (AR0194.203). BIA noted that the mitigation measures "will be binding on the Tribe because it is intrinsic to the

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project, required by federal law, required by agreements between the Tribe and local agencies, and/or subject to a tribal resolution." AR0194.194.

The Final EA was released for public comment for a period of 30 days. AR0194.00014. Following the public comment period, on October 17, 2014, BIA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (the "FONSI"), concluding that the proposed federal action to approve the Band's application to acquire the Property in trust for the purpose of developing up to 143 units of tribal housing and associated facilities "does not constitute a major federal action that would significantly affect the quality of the human environment." AR0237.22. Because BIA found that approving the Band's application would not significantly impact the environment, BIA determined that the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement was not required. Id.

B. Regulatory Review and Approval

On December 24, 2014, BIA Regional Director Amy Dutschke, relying on the Final EA and the FONSI, issued a Notice of Decision announcing the intent to acquire the Property in trust for the Tribe (the "2014 NOD"). See AR0258.72-100. In the 2014 NOD, Regional Director Dutschke evaluated the Tribe's application under the applicable regulatory factors and addressed comments from state and local government entities and...

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