The Penobscot Nation and the U.S. government are appealing the decision of a federal judge in Maine who found that the tribe’s reservation includes islands on the Penobscot River but not the water itself.

The notice of appeal was filed Monday and will be heard by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, according to federal court records.

In 2012, the tribe filed suit against the state of Maine claiming it has exclusive jurisdiction over the Penobscot River waters near its reservation. The Penobscot Nation argued that the 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act gives the tribe the right to regulate fishing, hunting, trapping and the taking of wildlife from the river.

Former Maine Attorney General William Schneider, in an advisory opinion, said the tribe has authority over its land, but not the river, which he said is subject to state laws.

In December 2015, U.S. District Judge George Singal ruled the tribe could take fish for sustenance from the river, but could not charge people with violations of fishing regulations or water quality rules.

His decision rejected arguments from the Penobscot Nation that its reservation boundaries extend from bank to bank of Maine’s second largest river. After his ruling, Penobscot Nation Chief Kirk Francis described the ruling as a mixed bag.

“Obviously, it’s not the greatest decision for the tribe,” Francis told the Portland Press Herald. “We are trying to understand how the existing statute and the decision fit together.”

Named as defendants in the pending appeal are Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills; Chandler Woodcock, commissioner for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; and Col. Joel T. Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service. The city of Brewer is named as a defendant and intervenor.


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