Cooperative Agreements

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 are encouraged to become involved in the Program and funds are available to support tribal involvement through cooperative agreements.*

A cooperative agreement would make funds available to tribal governments to implement key aspects of the Buy-Back Program, such as owner outreach and education. Tribes have the opportunity to actively participate in the process, including identifying acquisition priorities, which will improve the program’s effectiveness and efficiency while minimizing administrative costs.

Signing CSKT Cooperative Agreement
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 credit: Tami A. Heilemann
The Program has developed an implementation strategy that focuses its initial efforts on the reservations with approximately 90% of the purchasable fractional interests for the next several years. Outreach and tribal engagement will also continue with the tribes that represent the locations with the remaining 10 percent of fractionated lands. Flexible purchase ceilings will be used to protect against the risk of premature exhaustion of the available funds.

The Department held an open period of solicitation from November 8, 2013, to March 14, 2014, to invite tribes with jurisdiction over the vast majority of highly fractionated trust lands to submit cooperative agreement applications and letters of interest for land consolidation under the Program. This solicitation expands upon implementation work already underway and allows locations with the highest concentrations of purchasable fractional land interests to work with Interior to determine the schedule in which they wish to ultimately conduct outreach and engagement.

Tribes that would like to engage with the Program are encouraged to take the following steps:

  1. Review Cooperative Agreement Documents. The tribe reviews the cooperative agreement application documents (see below), the Program website and the Updated Implementation Plan to determine whether the tribe would like to apply for a cooperative agreement and undertake some of the land consolidation tasks, or whether the tribe would like the Program to implement land consolidation efforts within their reservation on behalf of the tribe.   Key documents tribes should familiarize themselves with during this step include:

  1. Identify Desired Level of Involvement. The tribe identifies the level of involvement it would like in the Program (please see Scope of Work Checklist for a description of the 8  land consolidation tasks that tribes may elect to perform during Program implementation through a cooperative agreement). Note that a tribe is not required to enter into a cooperative agreement to participate in the Program.  The Buy-Back Program will implement land consolidation efforts at reservations, in consultation with the tribe, when a cooperative agreement is not necessary or desirable.

  2. Submit Expression of Interest. The tribe submits a formal expression of interest, such as a tribal resolution or a letter, to the Program stating whether the tribe would like to apply for a cooperative agreement based upon a review of the available documents or whether the tribe would prefer for the Buy-Back Program to implement the land consolidation activities in consultation with the Tribe.  This expression of interest should:

    • Describe the tribe's capacity and readiness to participate in the Program. This includes but is not limited to the tribe's experience performing land consolidation activities, experience managing grants or cooperative agreements, and whether the tribe has begun to raise awareness among its citizens or identified willing sellers.
    • Identify a tribal point of contact (POC) authorized to speak on behalf of the tribe during involvement in the Buy-Back Program.
    • If applicable, list the tasks (see the Scope of Work Checklist) the tribe would like to perform.

    Expressions of Interest should be emailed to, or mailed to:

    John McClanahan
    Program Manager
    Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal nations
    1849 C Street NW, Room 7222
    Washington, DC 20240

  3. Collaboration with the Buy-Back Program. Upon receipt of the expression of interest, the Buy-Back Program will engage, if it has not already, with the identified tribal POC to discuss the tribe’s desired level of involvement.  The Program will also provide technical assistance to the tribe in the preparation of the cooperative application or begin planning for the Program to implement the land consolidation activities on behalf of tribe’s not interested in pursuing a cooperative agreement.
  4. Submission of the Cooperative Agreement Application (if applicable). Upon receipt of the cooperative agreement application, the Program would work with the tribe to determine an implementation schedule at the tribe’s reservation.
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.

Tribes with jurisdiction over the most fractionated locations that do not submit expressions of interest during the open solicitation period will be scheduled for implementation by the Program. These tribes would be informed of their respective implementation schedules and will still have the ability to apply for cooperative agreements prior to implementation at their locations.

Cooperative Agreement Quick Guide & Frequently Asked Questions

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.

Scope of Work Checklist

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.

Cooperative Agreement Application Instructions

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.

Tribal Authorization Guide & Sample Language

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 some 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:

For guidance on how to complete these forms, please refer to the Cooperative Agreement Application Instructions.

Cooperative Agreement Template

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.

Applicable Rules/Guidance

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 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.