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UPDATE: EPA issues Wind River Reservation state status for air monitoring, rules on res. border

After five years of deliberation, the Environmental Protection Agency has declared the Wind River Indian Reservation its own state for the purpose of air quality monitoring. The decision, made under the Clean Air Act, will allow the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to apply for grants to support air monitoring programs, but it doesn’t give the tribes regulatory powers.

As part of the decision, the EPA had to determine what constitutes the exterior boundaries of the Wind River Reservation. And although some Wyoming lawmakers disagree, the federal agency found that the city of Riverton is within reservation borders. 

Mark Howell, lobbyist for the Northern Arapaho tribe, says that has consequences beyond just air monitoring.

“That obviously has wide and varied implications,” Howell says. “Now as part of this process the tribes have specifically asked the federal government not to run headlong into implementing this determination, specifically with regard to things like criminal jurisdiction. The tribes want to be good friends with their neighbors.”

Howell says the tribes have already contacted Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness, inviting him to discuss the jurisdictional issues that will surely arise.

Governor Matt Mead issued a statement, saying "it is outrageous to me that a regulatory agency has proposed changing jurisdictional boundaries established by history and the Courts." Mead has asked the Attorney General to challenge the decision.

Irina Zhorov is a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the University of Wyoming. In between, she worked as a photographer and writer for Philadelphia-area and national publications. Her professional interests revolve around environmental and energy reporting and she's reported on mining issues from Wyoming, Mexico, and Bolivia. She's been supported by the Dick and Lynn Cheney Grant for International Study, the Eleanor K. Kambouris Grant, and the Social Justice Research Center Research Grant for her work on Bolivian mining and Uzbek alpinism. Her work has appeared on Voice of America, National Native News, and in Indian Country Today, among other publications.
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