Barstow Gives Local Land Use Authority Clearance For Lenwood Indian Casino

BARSTOW—The City of Barstow has cleared things on its end to allow an Indian casino and resort to be erected near Lenwood, leaving the final steps in the approval process to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians has proposed, in conjunction with Barwest, L.L.C., to develop a $160 million gaming house, hotel and spa on roughly 23 acres of ground in Lenwood owned by Barwest. That concept has been in discussion for more than six years.
There yet remains the possibility that the Indian tribes and/or Barwest will abandon the project if the parameters of the environmental and project approvals impose prohibitive conditions. Moreover, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Interior have already pronounced certain conditions the tribe is willing to meet but are in the process of updating or altering those conditions.
For its part, the Bureau of Indian Affairs recently released a draft conformity determination for the proposed fee-to-trust acquisition of 23 acres of land on which the Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians propose to construct the casino, hotel, parking areas and other facilities.
The site is well outside the tribes’ reservations and what is recognized as the tribes’ ancestral lands, so the tribes are required to file an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in a public trust and transfer the tribes’ rights from their tribal property to the Lenwood site. That involves making a case that at least one of the tribes had ancestral roots in the Barstow area, where it or they had an historical relationship to the property in question by virtue of aboriginal activity, including hunting, foraging and trading in particular. That application would have entailed an anthropological study to demonstrate the tribes’ ancestors ranged into Barstow.
There is some concern that Lenwood lies within the aboriginal and historical territories of the Serrano Indians and San Manuel Indians as opposed to the Los Coyotes.
The Los Coyotes Reservation is located approximately 70 miles from San Diego, between the Cleveland National Forest and the Anza-Borrego Desert.
The U.S. Department of Interior has asked for a special dispensation involving the application be provided, including obligations inserted into the Los Coyotes’ title policy for the installation of infrastructure to accompany the development of property falling under the City of Barstow’s land use authority. The city gave its approval contingent upon the Los Coyotes providing infrastructure in accordance with the Barstow Municipal Code. Barwest, as the land owner, is bound by the agreement.

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