Do state environmental laws apply on American Indian reservations?
To the extent that state law is “prohibitory” as opposed to “regulatory,” it applies to American Indian reservations under the operation of Public Law No. 280, which provides Minnesota with the authority to enforce criminal and prohibitory law on American Indian reservations, with the exception of the Red Lake Reservation.(80) Whether individual environmental laws are prohibitory or regulatory is a complex question that is ultimately determined on a case-by-case basis by the courts. In California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, the United States Supreme Court applied Public Law 280 to provide some guidance in making this determination: [I]f the intent of a state law is generally to prohibit certain conduct, it falls within Pub.L. 280’s grant of criminal jurisdiction, but if the state law generally permits the conduct at issue, subject to regulation, it must be classified as civil/regulatory and does not authorize its enforcement on an Indian Reservation. The shorthand test is wheth
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