Idaho v. United States, 533 U.S. 262, 2 (2001)

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Cite as: 533 U. S. 262 (2001)


merged lands within the current reservation. The Tribe intervened to assert its interest in those lands, and Idaho counterclaimed to quiet title in its favor. The District Court quieted title in the United States as trustee, and the Tribe as beneficiary, to the bed and banks of the lake and the river within the reservation. The Ninth Circuit affirmed.

Held: The National Government holds title, in trust for the Tribe, to lands underlying portions of Lake Coeur d'Alene and the St. Joe River. Pp. 272-281.

(a) Armed with the strong presumption against defeat of a State's title to land under navigable waters, United States v. Alaska, 521 U. S. 1, 34, the Court looks to Congress's declarations and intent when resolving conflicts over submerged lands claimed to be reserved or conveyed by the United States before statehood, e. g., id., at 36. The two-step enquiry used in reservation cases asks whether Congress intended to include submerged lands within the federal reservation, and, if so, whether Congress intended to defeat the future State's title to those lands. Ibid. Where, as here, the Executive Branch initially reserved the land, the two-step test is satisfied when an Executive reservation clearly includes submerged lands, and Congress recognizes that reservation in a way that demonstrates its intent to defeat state title. Id., at 41-46, 55-61. Here, Idaho has conceded that the Executive Branch intended, or interpreted, the 1873 Executive Order reservation to include submerged lands. Pp. 272-274.

(b) Congress recognized the full extent of the Executive Order reservation and it intended to bar passage to Idaho of title to the submerged lands at issue. Idaho's concession, in the Ninth Circuit, that the Executive Order reservation included submerged lands and that Congress was on notice regarding the scope of the reservation was prudent in light of the District Court's findings of facts. That court concluded that the submerged lands and related water rights had been continuously important to the Tribe throughout the period prior to congressional action confirming the reservation and granting Idaho statehood, and that the Federal Government could only achieve its goals of promoting settlement in the Tribe's aboriginal area, avoiding hostilities with the Tribe, and extinguishing aboriginal title by agreeing to a reservation that included the submerged lands. That is the background of the 1873 Executive Order's inclusion of such lands, which in turn were the subject of the Senate's 1888 request to the Interior Secretary, whose response was consistent with the 1883 survey results. The manner in which Congress then proceeded to deal with the Tribe shows clearly that preservation of the reservation's land, absent contrary agreement with the Tribe, was central to Congress's complementary objectives


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