Udall Bill to Clarify Tribal Lands Leasing Authority for Two New Mexico Pueblos Passes Congress

Ohkay Owingeh, New Mexico

Published July 30, 2018

Bill to help Pueblos attract businesses and promote economic development

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, announced that Congress has passed his bill to clarify that the Pueblos of Santa Clara and Ohkay Owingeh may engage in long-term leasing for economic development purposes on their tribal lands. The bill provides the Pueblos certainty in leasing and investing in their lands to businesses, boosting job creation and economic development. The text of Udall’s bill, S. 249, was included as an amendment to the Senate-passed S. 2850 at Udall’s urging, and is now on its way to the president’s desk. S. 249 is cosponsored by Senator Martin Heinrich and the House companion, H.R. 1787, was introduced by U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján and cosponsored by U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Vice Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Tom Udall – D – New Mexico

“Tribes should be able to determine the duration of tribal leases on their own lands, particularly as business opportunities change over time, to maximize economic development and provide for their communities,” Udall said. “My common-sense legislation will attract new businesses and spur investment in the economies of the Pueblos of Santa Clara and Ohkay Owingeh, benefiting the wider region and leading to job growth for the pueblos and surrounding communities. I’m proud that we got it over the finish line.”

Udall, in a February 2017 Indian Affairs business meeting to consider S. 249, noted that the Tribes should have consistent leasing authority over their lands as an exercise of tribal self-determination and self-governance. S. 249 amends current law by extending the lease period from 25 to 99 years for the Pueblos’ lands held in restricted fee status, a term that currently only applies to tribal trust lands.

“This bill is fundamentally about strengthening self-determination and tribal sovereignty, and opening doors to more economic development,” said Heinrich. “Tribal communities flourish when they have the flexibility they need to grow jobs and businesses for their members. I’m grateful for Senator Udall’s leadership in the Indian Affairs Committee and the dedication of Ohkay Owingeh and Santa Clara leaders who helped us get this done.”

“I am pleased that Congress has passed common-sense legislation to permit Santa Clara and Ohkay Owingeh to lease their restricted fee lands for up to 99 years. I was proud to work with Senator Udall on this legislation and thank him for his leadership on this issue,” said Luján. “This will promote economic development and opportunity for both pueblos.”

“I am proud to have worked with Senator Udall and Congressman Luján on legislation that reaffirms tribes’ right to govern themselves and manage their own land,” said Lujan Grisham. “This common-sense measure is supported by Tribal communities because it will lead to new investments and create economic opportunities for Pueblo families, entrepreneurs, and business owners.”

“The Santa Clara Pueblo has lost business opportunities with major companies because we could only lease our lands for a limited period.  With passage of S. 249, which will allow us to lease our lands for up to 99 years, a whole range of new economic development projects become possible.   We are grateful for Senator Udall’s leadership in the Senate for introducing this bill, and for Senator Heinrich’s co-sponsorship.  Their work will help us to expand our economic activities for the benefit of the Santa Clara people and the surrounding communities,” said Governor Michael Chavarria of the Santa Clara Pueblo.

“Ohkay Owingeh thanks Senator Udall for his efforts to include Ohkay Owingeh on the 99 year leasing bill that is a part of S. 2850, which passed the House yesterday after passing the Senate earlier this month,” said Governor Peter Garcia, Jr. of the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. “Passage of this legislation allows Ohkay Owingeh to lease our lands for various projects for up to 99 years, which will give Ohkay Owingeh more opportunities and provide more stability than the current 25 year limit does.”

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