Endangered Toad Causes Problems for California Tribe

September 23, 2001

Source: The San Diego Union-Tribune

On September 23, 2001, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that plans for a $125 million casino and hotel complex on the Rincon Reservation in California have been hindered by the arroyo toad, which is protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. "'The Fish and Wildlife Service wanted us to create a toad paradise,' said John Currier, chairman of the Rincon tribe. 'They made us do all kinds of changes to our project. And we have to pay for it'... Although the casino project is moving ahead, the tribe is so upset about its face-off with the toad that it has asked U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton to exempt the reservation from the federal regulations that protect the toad. Those regulations were defined this year to specifically include the critical habitat of the arroyo toad... 'The dedication of our tribal and allotted land as toad habitat effectively prevents the tribe and the United States from carrying out the purpose of the Rincon Reservation as an economically self-sustaining homeland for the Rincon Band and its members,' Currier said in a letter last month to Norton... With about 680 members, the tribe is one of the largest in San Diego County... Now, Currier worries that any tribal member who wants to modify a house, garden or garage could be affected by the toad regulations. That possibility galls Currier, who said that under the Mission Indian Relief Act of 1891, tribal land is for 'the sole use and benefit' of the Rincon Indians. 'Do we always have to talk to the Fish and Wildlife Service first?' he asked. 'That can't be right. This is our sacred land. It's our homeland, our property.'"