Published On: Wed, Nov 30th, 2011

DOI proposes leasing reform on Indian lands

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

                The Department of Interior is proposing changes to its 50-year-old regulations regarding approval of leases on Indian lands.  The Department says the old regulations are “antiquated” and a “one-size fits all” approach. 

                “The proposed changes are the most comprehensive reforms of Indian land leasing regulations in more than 50 years and will have a real impact for individuals and families who want to own a home or build a business,” Interior Secretary Salazar said on Monday, Nov. 28.  “This reform underscores President Obama’s commitment to empower Indian nations and strengthen their economies by expanding opportunities for individual landowners and tribal governments – generating investment, new jobs and revenues.” 

                The Department states that it manages, in a trustee status, over 56 million surface acres throughout Indian Country.

                The proposal has already drawn support from some in Indian Country.  “The federal government has heard the message of tribal nations to remove barriers stifling tribal economic and renewable energy development,” said NCAI president Jefferson Keel.  “Until these reforms are enacted though, tribes will continue to wait excessive lengths of time to permit a renewable energy project or approve a mortgage.  We don’t have time to wait.”

                Some of the proposed changes include:

– 30-day limit for BIA to decide on residential leases, subleases and mortgages

– 60-day limit for BIA to decide on leases for commercial or industrial developments

– eliminate approval of BIA for permits for short-term activities such as parades

– require the BIA to approve all leases unless it finds “a compelling reason to disapprove”. 

                Assistant Secretary Larry Echohawk related, “The revised regulations will bring greater transparency, efficiency and workability to the Bureau of Indian Affairs approval process, and will provide tribal communities and individuals certainty and flexibility when it comes to decisions on the use of their land.”

                The Department related that it received over 2,300 comments from over 70 tribes and federal agencies including HUD and the IRS regarding the proposed changes.  The proposal was published in the federal register on Tuesday, Nov. 29 and starts a 60-day comment period. 

                To make a comment on the changes, email consultation@bia.gov or by mail to: Del Laverdure, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C St., N.W., MS-4141-MIB, Washington, DC 20240.

Q&A on proposed changes from DOI

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