Interior Department Partners with Two Additional Tribal Nations to Reduce Land Fractionation in Indian Country
Published December 16, 2015
WASHINGTON – Continuing President Obama’s commitment to strengthen tribal sovereignty, Interior Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor announced today that the Department has signed agreements with the Round Valley Indian Tribes of the Round Valley Reservation in California and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians of North Dakota to implement the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program). The Buy-Back Program facilitates the purchase of individual interests in fractionated trust lands and consolidates ownership for the tribe with jurisdiction.
The Department has thus far entered into agreements with 27 tribal nations to cooperatively implement the Buy-Back Program. Each agreement is unique in time, scope and responsibilities, based on the expressed interests of the tribe. The agreements outline coordinated strategies to facilitate education about the Buy-Back Program to landowners.
“Federal and tribal partners must do all we can to give landowners a meaningful chance to participate in this unique Program and receive compensation for their fractional interests,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “We welcome the active participation of the Round Valley Indian Tribes and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, which will be critical to the success of implementing the Buy-Back Program at their locations.”
The Program recently released its 2015 Status Report, which summarizes its implementation to date and significant economic impact in Indian Country. Since the Interior Department began making offers in December 2013, the Program has paid more than $729 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of approximately 1.5 million acres of land to tribal governments.
President of the Round Valley Indian Tribal Council James Russ said, “The Round Valley Indian Reservation’s fractionated land has grown exponentially over time and generations. The Land Buy-Back Program provides a unique opportunity to address this issue. Entering into a Cooperative Agreement with the Program gives us a beginning point to reduce the fractionation, since the majority of our reservation lands are held in ownership by these many fractionated interests. We will be able start resolving some of our housing and economic needs, as well as be able to manage untouched portions of our vast natural resources.”
“The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is pleased to enter into a cooperative agreement with the Buy-Back Program,” said Turtle Mountain Tribal Chairman Richard McCloud. “This Program will provide the tribe and its members with increased economic development, home site and agricultural opportunities. With an enrollment of approximately 31,500 members and a very limited land base, undivided interest owners see little or no economic benefit.”
The 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 within 10 years. Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.
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. The Department has identified 42 locations where land consolidation activities such as planning, outreach, mapping, mineral evaluations, appraisals or acquisitions are expected to take place through the middle of 2017. These communities represent more than 80 percent of all outstanding fractional interests across Indian Country.
The Program recently launched a two-pronged Planning Initiative to help determine its next implementation schedule for 2017 and beyond. Eligible tribal governments not already scheduled for implementation, and all landowners with fractional interests are invited to formally indicate their interest in participating in the Program no later than March 11, 2016.
Deputy Secretary Connor will host a Listening Session on March 3, 2016, at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. MT. He will be joined by Special Trustee for American Indians Vince Logan. In addition to the Listening Session, federal staff will be available from 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. to discuss the Program, answer landowner questions, provide information about financial education and appraisals, and register interested sellers.
More information and frequently asked questions are available at www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ to help individuals make informed decisions about their land.