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Quechan Tribe of Fort Yuma Indian Reservation v. United States Department of the Interior

755 F. Supp. 2d 1104 (2010)

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Quechan Tribe of Fort Yuma Indian Reservation v. United States Department of the Interior

United States District Court for the Southern District of California

755 F. Supp. 2d 1104 (2010)

Facts

The United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a solar-energy project on 6,500 acres of federal lands that affected historic sites culturally important to the Quechan Tribe of Fort Yuma Indian Reservation (the tribe) (plaintiff). The project potentially would have affected up to 459 cultural resources within the project area. Such cultural resources included prehistoric settlements and burial sites. The BLM prepared a draft environmental-impact statement indicating that cultural sites would be destroyed. The BLM engaged in a limited degree of communication with the tribe. The BLM provided the tribe with a number of letters, reports, and documents, but there was a significant lack of government-to-government consultation between the BLM and the tribe. The BLM invited the tribe to attend public meetings. It also invited the tribe to submit comments on a programmatic agreement for management of the project. However, the meetings did not meet the level of consultation required by regulation, and the tribe did not receive adequate time and information to review the agreement. The BLM executed the agreement over the tribe’s objection and approved the project. The tribe brought an action against the BLM for violating the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), among other federal laws. The tribe filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction against the project proceeding.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Burns, J.)

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