Artman's decisions making waves even after resignation
Carl Artman left his job as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs more than a month ago but his decisions are still making their way out of the Bush administration.

Artman's final day as assistant secretary was May 23. He only held the post for a little over a year, a tenure that didn't give him much time to make a lasting impact on an agency that was recently described by a leading Democrat as "incompetent."

"The BIA is an ineffective mess that needs to be reorganized and re-energized," Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee wrote in a letter shortly after Artman left. "If that proves impossible then maybe it ought to be replaced with an organization that will take effective action to help improve the lives of American Indians."

But in his last month in office, Artman managed to make quite a few changes in areas where the BIA has seen most of its criticism. He finalized two gaming regulations, implemented internal changes to the federal recognition process and advanced several casino projects, including one that he rejected earlier this year.

He also told Congressional critics that the BIA would not take action to address the status of the Freedmen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma until federal and tribal courts resolve pending lawsuits. The dispute has been one of the most politically charged issues on Capitol Hill.

Controversy, however, didn't stop Artman from issuing 11th-hour decisions. On the day he left office, he reopened the environmental review process for an off-reservation casino in California despite complaining in January that the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians is seeking land too far from the tribe's reservation.

A day before he left office, he wrote the Cherokee letter, finalized a gaming compact regulation that saw little tribal consultation and ruled against the federal recognition petitions of two Louisiana tribes. And just two days before leaving, he approved the land-into-trust application for the Cowlitz Tribe of Washington, whose casino has been the subject of considerable debate.

In the month of May alone, 13 notices bearing Artman's signature were published in the Federal Register. Three of them were approvals for land-into-trust applications, including the Cowlitz project.

Even after Artman left, the Federal Register continues to bear his imprint. Since June 1, six more notices with his signatures have been published, including one in today's issue to initiate review of another off-reservation casino in California.

It's possible that more notices are on the way. The gaming compact regulation that Artman signed on May 22 wasn't published until last week.

Also unknown are decisions that haven't been made part of the public record. The Cherokee letter only came to light through media coverage, as did Artman's last-minute attempt to influence a third off-reservation casino project in California.

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