The US Supreme Court held Monday in Herrera v. Wyoming that hunting rights provided to a western American Indian tribe, the Crow Tribe, via federal treaty did not expire when Wyoming became a state. It also determined that the term “unoccupied” in the same federal treaty that granted hunting access was still valid and that the Bighorn National Forest did not become categorically “occupied” when the forest was created.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the majority in the 5-4 opinion that Congress did not intend to end the right when it established Wyoming as a state. In addition, simply creating a national forest did not meet the “occupation” requirement of the treaty, but rather reserved the lands from such.
“The Federal Government’s exercise of control and withdrawing of the forest lands from settlement would not categorically transform the territory into an area resided on or settled by non-Indians; quite the opposite.”
The court did not touch on a decision by the state trial court that Wyoming could regulate the exercise of the 1868 Treaty right “in the interest of conservation.”