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Lytton reservation in Sonoma County headed for approval with prohibition on gaming

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Lytton Rancheria’s quest for a federally recognized reservation next to Windsor appears headed for realization this week as part of a $738 billion defense spending bill.

Approved by the House in a 377-48 vote last week, the 3,448-page bill, including Rep. Jared Huffman’s tribal lands measure, is headed for Senate adoption this week along with a hearty endorsement from President Donald Trump.

The bill would restore territory to the Lytton tribe left homeless nearly 60 years ago, but made wealthy by proceeds from a San Pablo casino that enabled it to purchase more than 500 acres on Windsor’s southern flank.

Sonoma County supervisors signed off in 2015 on an agreement that allows the rancheria to develop 147 housing units, a 200-room resort and a 200,000-case winery, with the tribe paying millions of dollars in fees and compensation in place of property taxes.

The bill crafted by Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat, stipulates that no gaming will be allowed on the lands next to Windsor or on any other lands subsequently granted reservation status.

“This action is necessary to fully restore the tribe to the status it had before it was wrongfully terminated in 1961,” the bill says.

Doug Elmets, a tribal spokesman, said the rancheria would make no comment until the bill has Trump’s signature.

Hailing the Pentagon appropriations bill for including creation of a Space Force, Trump tweeted last week: “Congress — don’t delay this anymore! I will sign this historic defense legislation immediately.”

Huffman said in an email he was pleased with the measure that supports tribal housing and economic development “with strong environmental safeguards” and a prohibition on gambling.

He got the bill attached to what’s known as a “must-pass” package to circumvent the Senate rule that allows a “single stubborn senator” to place a hold on a certain measure, the email said.

But Huffman voted against the defense bill last week because negotiations with the Senate and White House had stripped away what he considered important provisions in the House bill, including repeal of the post-9/11 military force authorization and ending United States support for the Saudi war in Yemen.

The Lytton tribe, which has about 300 adult members, has reached service agreements with Windsor schools and firefighters, both in exchange for substantial payments.

When the federal government takes the Lytton land into trust it will be removed from local control and taxes.

The Lytton Rancheria lost its homeland in Alexander Valley north of Healdsburg when its federal recognition was terminated in 1961. Recognition was restored in 1991, but the tribe regained no lands nor means of support.

Revenue from the San Pablo casino also allowed the tribe to purchase the 564-acre Salvation Army property near Healdsburg for $30 million in 2017.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.

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