Willing Sellers Have 45 Days to Respond in Voluntary Land Buy-Back Program
WASHINGTON – Continuing the momentum of the Department of the Interior’s Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program), Deputy Secretary Mike Connor today announced that nearly $9 million in purchase offers have been sent to more than 400 landowners with fractional interests at the Coeur d’Alene Reservation in Idaho. Interested sellers have 45 days – until February 2, 2015 – to return accepted offers in the pre-paid postage envelops provided.
Since December 2013, the Buy-Back Program has mailed more than $750 million in purchase offers to nearly 46,000 owners of fractionated interests. The Program has successfully concluded transactions worth more than $300 million and has restored the equivalent of over 500,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
“This year, we have made a significant and lasting step toward our goal of ensuring that every available dollar is returned to tribal communities,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “The Program is an exceptional opportunity that cannot be taken for granted. We are committed to learning from every sale and every location and ensuring that landowners are given every opportunity to make informed decisions about the potential sale of their land at fair market value.”
There are approximately 245,000 owners of nearly three million fractional interests, spanning 150 Indian reservations, who are eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program. Many see little or no economic benefit from what are often very small, undivided interests in lands that cannot be utilized due to their highly fractionated state.
The Department recently announced 21 additional locations where the Program will begin implementation, bringing the total number of locations actively engaged in the Buy-Back Program to 42. This total represents 83 percent of all outstanding fractionated ownership interests.
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.
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.
Sales of land interests will also result in up to $60 million in contributions to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund. This contribution by Interior is in addition to the amounts paid to individual sellers, so it will not reduce the amount landowners receive for their interests.
Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 with questions about their purchase offers. Individuals can also visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office, or find more information at www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners in order to make informed decisions about their land.