Program works to reduce land fractionation, free up land for economic development
WASHINGTON – Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs John Tahsuda today announced that the Department has signed an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon to guide implementation of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program).
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. The Program has thus far made offers at 48 different locations, resulting in the consolidation of more than 730,000 fractional interests and the restoration of more than 2.1 million equivalent acres of land to tribal governments.
Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members. As a result of the Buy-Back Program, tribal ownership now exceeds 50 percent in over 14,200 tracts of land. Returning fractionated lands to tribes in trust has enormous potential to improve Tribal community resources by increasing home site locations, improving transportation routes, spurring economic development, easing approval for infrastructure and community projects, and preserving traditional cultural or ceremonial sites.
“Following the Department’s announcement of its revised strategy to maximize the consolidation of fractional interests, I am pleased to announce the agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to implement the Buy-Back Program,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tahsuda. “The Department remains committed to working with tribal governments on this important Program which benefits tribal community members and strengthens tribal sovereignty. Partnering with tribal governments is critical for effective outreach, informed decision-making, and to achieve the greatest consolidation of fractional interests and improved land management.”
To date, the Department has entered into agreements with more than 40 tribal nations to cooperatively implement the Buy-Back Program. The agreements outline coordinated strategies to facilitate education about the Program to landowners, but are unique in time, scope and responsibilities based on the particular circumstances at each location.
“The Tribes look forward to working with the Program to create cultural, residential, governmental and economic opportunities by consolidating fractionated lands for the benefit of our tribal community,”said Chairman Austin Greene, Jr. of the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. “The Tribes will be better equipped to manage our lands both on and off reservation. Land is important to us for the continued sovereignty of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute people.”
This cooperative agreement is the first under Interior’s updated policy, which streamlined the agreement process to clarify the funding parameters for tribes and to ensure that the maximum amount of funding goes to land consolidation. In an announcement in July 2017, the Department outlined a number of new policies to better leverage Program resources, facilitate greater efficiencies, and increase opportunities to consolidate fractional interests with the remaining $514 million in funding.
Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 or visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) to ask questions about their land or purchase offers, and learn about financial planning resources. More information and detailed frequently asked questions are available at https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ to help individuals make informed decisions about their land.
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