A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Ute Distribution Corp., which had sought a voice in the management of wildlife on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in eastern Utah.
The corporation, which represents the interests of former tribal members who are of so-called "mixed blood," asked for the dis-missal.The Ute Distribution Corp. now wants to pursue further administrative appeals within the federal government, said its attorney, Camille Johnson.
Senior U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins took the action without prejudice, meaning the lawsuit can be refiled later. The federal government and the Ute tribe, also named in the suit, did not oppose the dismissal at a brief hearing earlier this month.
The Ute Distribution Corp. was incorporated in 1958, when mixed-blood tribal members were being terminated from the Ute tribe.
Proceeds from assets that could easily be divided were distributed to the terminated members. Assets that could not be divided practically - such as oil, gas and mineral rights - were held in trust. The UDC was created to jointly manage those assets with the tribe.
The UDC learned in 1996 that the Ute Business Committee had received a proposal to sell live elk from reservation property. Corporation leaders protested to David Allison, superintendent for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, arguing they should be included in such wildlife decisions.
Allison rejected their objections in May 1997. The UDC appealed to the area BIA director. When no decision had been issued by January, the UDC filed its federal lawsuit, protesting the tribe's continuing sales and trades of elk for other animals.
The director issued a decision in February, again rejecting the UDC protest. Johnson said the UDC, having withdrawn its suit, will next appeal to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals.
The Ute tribe - backed by the BIA - claims it retains sole management of fish and game resources.