|Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, Secretary Sally Jewell, and Tribal Chairman Ronald Trahan signing the cooperative agreement for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Photo: Tami A. Heilemann
The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) is interested in partnering with tribes to gain their direct participation in land consolidation efforts. Tribes have the opportunity to actively participate in the process, including identifying acquisition priorities and conducting owner outreach and education. Tribes are encouraged to become involved in the Program and funds are available to support tribal involvement through cooperative agreements.* Tribal involvement will improve the Program's effectiveness and efficiency while minimizing administrative costs.
Tribes are not required to enter into cooperative agreements to participate in the Program. In certain cases, such as when a tribe is not seeking funding to partner with the Department on land consolidation efforts, it may be unnecessary and other vehicles, such as memorandums of agreements (MOA),** may be used. Tribes wishing to enter into MOAs should contact the Program directly.
The Buy-Back Program held an open solicitation from November 8, 2013, through March 14, 2014, during which tribes with jurisdiction over the most fractionated locations were invited to submit letters of interest or cooperative agreement applications for participation in the Program. The more than 50 submissions that were received helped to inform an initial implementation schedule, announced in May 2014, for the Buy-Back Program through 2015. These locations represent more than half of all the fractional interests and unique owners across Indian Country.
The Buy-Back Program is currently focusing the majority of its resources and efforts on the locations identified in the implementation schedule, although, the Program may schedule additional locations during this period, as capacity and resources allow.
- Tribes that did not submit a letter of interest or a cooperative agreement application during the open solicitation period will have the opportunity to engage with the Program moving forward. Additional open solicitation periods are likely in the future as implementation is completed at the currently schedule locations.
- Tribes that did submit a letter of interest or a cooperative agreement application during the open solicitation period, but are not part of this initial implementation schedule, will not have to resubmit any documents during any subsequent open solicitations though the Buy-Back Program may ask tribes to update any submitted information.
- Tribes that are part of this initial implementation schedule will be contacted by the Buy-Back Program and will have the opportunity to apply for a cooperative agreement, if desired, prior to implementation at their locations.
Tribes interested in applying for a cooperative agreement are encouraged to review the cooperative agreement resources listed below to gain familiarity with the application process and requirements. Close collaboration with Program staff is encouraged throughout the entire cooperative agreement process. Buy-Back Program staff, including tribal relations advisors and the cooperative agreement specialist, will be available to provide on-going guidance and support, as well as technical assistance in developing a cooperative agreement.
This helpful guide details how and why tribes must complete each of the documents listed below when applying for cooperative agreements with the Buy-Back Program. The document includes an informative frequently asked questions (FAQs) section and further explains the cooperative agreement application process.
The Scope of Work Checklist is a high-level document that details the three phases of the land consolidation process (Outreach, Land Research, Valuation) as well as phase-specific tasks that the tribe may participate in. In consultation with the Buy-Back Program, each tribe should “check off” the phases and phase-specific tasks it proposes to perform. A completed and signed Scope of Work Checklist must be submitted as part of a tribe’s cooperative agreement application package.
As the name suggests, this document provides guidance to tribes on how to prepare their cooperative agreement applications, especially the Application Narrative.
The Application Narrative
The Application Narrative is a comprehensive and detailed document in which a tribe describes how it proposes to perform and meet the requirements of the tasks it proposes to undertake in the Scope of Work Checklist. Similar to a grant proposal, the Application Narrative is the document where a tribe provides detailed narrative, timeframe, and budgetary information on the anticipated activities and associated costs under a cooperative agreement with the Buy-Back Program. While the Scope of Work Checklist identifies what activities the tribe proposes to perform, the Application Narrative is where the tribe describes how the tribe proposes to perform them.
Tribes seeking to participate in the Buy-Back Program are required to submit a tribal authorization approving implementation of the Program at their reservations. This document provides tribes with guidance on what information to include in their authorization as well as sample language for their consideration.
Standard financial assistance application forms (SF-424)
These standard, government-wide required forms must be submitted as part of a tribe’s cooperative agreement application package to the Buy-Back Program:
- SF-424 - Application for Federal Assistance
- SF-424a - Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs
- SF-424b - Assurances for Non-Construction Programs
For guidance on how to complete these forms, please refer to the Cooperative Agreement Application Instructions.
This award document provides the legal instrument through which funding can be provided to a tribe to carry out the agreed-upon Program activities. Before funding can be awarded, the Program will first review the Tribe’s submitted application package and complete the Cooperative Agreement Template with information provided by the Tribe. After the Cooperative Agreement Template has been completed by the Program, it will be provided to the Tribe for review and signature. A Tribal official must then sign the agreement to acknowledge understanding of the terms and conditions within the agreement.
Although this template will be completed with individualized tribal information, the terms and conditions contained within the agreement may not be modified, with the exception of compelling circumstances to be determined on a case-by-case basis. This standardization is to ensure efficiency and fairness to all parties choosing to enter into cooperative agreements in light of the Program's limited time and resources set by the Cobell Settlement.
On December 26, 2013, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) published revised financial assistance regulations in the Federal Register to streamline the Federal Government's guidance on Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These regulations will supersede various OMB Circulars including A–87, A–102, and A–133 once implemented by the Department of the Interior (implementation must occur no later than December 26, 2014). Under the 2000 Indian Land Consolidation Act (ILCA) Amendments, the Secretary, to the extent practicable, may enter into agreements with the tribal government that exercises jurisdiction over the land involved or a subordinate entity of the tribal government to carry out some or all of the Secretary's land acquisition program. In accordance with the ILCA, cooperative agreements with the Buy-Back Program are not made pursuant to the Indian Self-Determination and Assistance Act (ISDEAA), 25 U.S.C. § 450 et seq. See 25 U.S.C. § 2212(b)(3)(C).
*A cooperative agreement is a legal instrument, similar to a grant, that represents the relationship between the Federal Government (i.e., Buy-Back Program) and a recipient (i.e., tribe). Its principle purpose is to transfer a thing of value (e.g., funding) to a recipient to carry out a public purpose of support or stimulation, as authorized by the Federal Government. When completing the activities under a cooperative agreement, substantial involvement is expected between the parties.
** A memorandum of agreement (also known as a memorandum of understanding) may be used whenever there is an agreement to exchange information or coordinate programs. They are used to optimize the benefits of each party's efforts. Each party is responsible for contributing its own effort and resources, such as funds, are not exchanged.