Environment | Law

Yakama Nation man faces trial for driving in federal wildlife refuge

The Arid Lands Ecology Reserve in Washington. Photo from Department of Energy / Flickr

A member of the Yakama Nation of Washington is on trial for driving through a federal wildlife refuge without permission.

Delbert Loren Wheeler faces one count of disturbing and injuring natural growth and one count of using a motorized vehicle on lands not designated as a road, according to the indictment. Federal authorities say he drove through the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, which is part of the Hanford Reach National Monument, in October 2011.

Wheeler apparently had been hunting in the area but he isn't facing any hunting charges. However, his attorney has indicated he will cite the Yakama Treaty of 1855 as a defense for traveling through the federal refuge.

"[Wheeler] hunted on the ALE as an exercise of his rights under the Treaty of 1855," his attorney said in a brief. "He shot and took elk, for food for himself and other members of the tribe, and for ceremonial purposes."

"As a matter of law, we will move for a judgment of acquittal when we have established that Mr. Wheeler is a Yakama and the ALE is land upon which the Treaty reserved access to the Yakamas," the attorney said in another brief.

The Hanford Reach National Monument was created in 2000 from the area surrounding the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, a nuclear site. Several tribes, including the Yakama Nation, retain the right to fish, hunt game and harvest roots and berries in the Hanford area.

Get the Story:
Hunter from Yakama tribe to face trial for off-road driving on ecology reserve (The Tri-City Herald 1/6)

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