Idaho v. United States, 533 U.S. 262, 12 (2001)

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

Opinion of the Court

deciding a question of title to the bed of navigable water must . . . begin with a strong presumption' against defeat of a State's title." Alaska, supra, at 34 (quoting Montana, supra, at 552).

Armed with that presumption, we have looked to Congress's declarations and intent when we have had to resolve conflicts over submerged lands claimed to have been reserved or conveyed by the United States before statehood. Alaska, supra, at 36 ("Whether title to submerged lands rests with a State, of course, is ultimately a matter of federal intent"); Utah Div. of State Lands v. United States, 482 U. S. 193, 201-202 (1987); Montana, supra, at 550-557; Holt State Bank, supra, at 57-59; Alaska Pacific Fisheries v. United States, 248 U. S. 78, 87-90 (1918); Shively, supra, at 48-51.

The issue of congressional intent is refined somewhat when submerged lands are located within a tract that the National Government has dealt with in some special way before statehood, as by reserving lands for a particular national purpose such as a wildlife refuge or, as here, an Indian reservation. Because reserving submerged lands does not necessarily imply the intent "to defeat a future State's title to the land," Utah Div. of State Lands, supra, at 202, we undertake a two-step enquiry in reservation cases. We ask whether Congress intended to include land under navigable waters within the federal reservation and, if so, whether Congress intended to defeat the future State's title to the submerged lands. Alaska, supra, at 36; Utah, supra, at 202.

Our most recent case of this sort, United States v. Alaska, supra, addressed two parcels of land initially reserved not by Congress but, as here, by the Executive Branch. We explained that the two-step test of congressional intent is satisfied when an Executive reservation clearly includes submerged lands, and Congress recognizes the reservation in a way that demonstrates an intent to defeat state title. Id., at 41-46, 55-61. We considered whether Congress was


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