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.
The Department announced on November 8, 2013 that it is currently soliciting cooperative agreement applications from tribes with jurisdiction over the vast majority of highly fractionated trust lands for consolidation under the program. 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.
An open solicitation period will be held through March 2014, during which tribes with jurisdiction over these most fractionated locations are invited to submit letters of interest or cooperative agreement applications for participation in the program. This is an important step that will assist with the timing of Program Implementation. This solicitation will expand the program 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 during the open solicitation period are encouraged to take the following steps:
- 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:
- Identify Desired Level of Involvement. The tribe identifies the level of involvement it would like in the Program (please see Scope of Work Template 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.
- 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 readiness to participate in the Program.
- 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 Template) the tribe would like to perform.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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 Template is a high-level document that details the four phases of the land consolidation process (Outreach, Land Research, Valuation, and Acquisition) as well as phase-specific tasks that the tribe may propose to undertake. 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 Template must be submitted as part of a tribe’s cooperative agreement application package.
The Statement of Work is a comprehensive document that expands upon the objectives, roles, responsibilities, and tasks agreed upon in the Scope of Work Template. It provides more detailed narrative and budgetary information on the anticipated deliverables, activities, and costs the tribe expects to address during its involvement with the Buy-Back Program. The Statement of Work Development Instructions, as the name suggests, provide guidance for how to prepare the Statement of Work. Eligible tribes must submit a Statement of Work as part of their cooperative agreement application package to the Buy-Back Program.
These standard forms are required to 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
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.
* 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.