Willing Sellers Have 45 Days to Respond in Voluntary Land Buy-Back Program
WASHINGTON – As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to strengthening tribal sovereignty, Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor Thursday announced that almost $150 million in purchase offers have been sent to more than 6,500 landowners with fractional interests at the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value. Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.
“This Program – developed in partnership with Cobell plaintiffs – is an exceptional opportunity that cannot be taken for granted,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “We must ensure that landowners are given every chance to make informed decisions about the potential sale of their land at fair market value.”
Interested sellers have 45 days – until June 29, 2015 – to return accepted offers in the pre-paid postage envelopes provided.
Individuals who choose to sell their interests receive payments directly into their Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. In addition to receiving fair market value for their land based on objective appraisals, sellers also receive a base payment of $75 per offer, regardless of the value of the land. Before implementation, the Department’s appraisal methodology was reviewed by The Appraisal Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the development of appraisal standards and establishing qualifications criteria for appraisers.
There are approximately 245,000 owners of nearly three million fractional interests across Indian Country who are eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program. Many see little or no economic benefit from what are often small, undivided interests in lands that cannot be utilized due to their highly fractionated state.
The Buy-Back Program began making offers in December 2013, and has already paid nearly $400 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of more than 600,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
Offers are also currently pending at:
- Rosebud Indian Reservation (deadline: May 16)
- Standing Rock Indian Reservation (deadline: June 1)
- Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (deadline: June 8)
A percentage of Program sales – up to $60 million – is contributed to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, which will make financial assistance available to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training. Interior has thus far transferred more than $17 million to the Scholarship Fund. This contribution is in addition to the amounts paid to individual sellers, so it does not reduce the amount landowners receive for their interests.
Individuals can call the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe at 605-964-4100 with questions about the Buy-Back Program.
Landowners can also contact Interior’s Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 to ask questions about their purchase offers and learn about financial planning resources. Individuals can visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office, or find more information at http://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners in order to make informed decisions about their land.