The Program

The Secretary of the Interior established the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) to implement the land consolidation provisions of the Cobell Settlement Agreement. The Settlement provided for a $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund (Fund) to consolidate fractional land interests across Indian Country.

The Buy-Back Program allows interested individual owners to receive payments for voluntarily selling their land. All lands sold will immediately be held in trust for the tribe with jurisdiction. This effort will strengthen tribal sovereignty and put decisionmaking in the hands of the tribal government, freeing up resources that have been locked-up as land interests have fractionated over time.

In addition to consolidating ownership of these acres for the beneficial use of tribal nations, up to $60 million from sales will be designated for the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, allowing future generations to benefit from the Program.

Tribal leadership, participation, and facilitation are crucial to the success of the Program. The Department of the Interior looks forward to working cooperatively with tribal leaders and individual landowners to reduce the number of fractional interests through voluntary land sales.

Cobell Settlement

  • The Cobell Settlement Agreement was reached in December 2009. The Settlement provided for a $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund (Fund), which is available to the Secretary of the Interior within a ten-year period to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land.
  • On December 8, 2010, President Obama signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. The Act specifically confirmed the Cobell Settlement Agreement and established the Fund upon final approval of the Settlement in November 2012.

  • The Settlement Agreement and the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 provide that the Fund will be distributed in accordance with provisions of 25 U.S.C. §§ 2201 et seq.

Program Implementation

  • An Initial Implementation Plan, released in December 2012, outlines the Buy-Back Program's initial approach to achieving successful land consolidation purchases.
  • With the additional benefit of tribal feedback and involvement, an Updated Implementation Plan, released in November 2013, incorporates public comment, best practices and lessons learned into its Program implementation.

Status of Buy-Back Program

Following extensive analysis and feedback received from tribal leaders and American Indian landowners, the Department of the Interior announced a revised strategy for the consolidation of fractional land interests through the Buy-Back Program on July 31, 2017. The strategy includes a revised schedule for implementation, as well as new opportunities for tribal governments to use the Program’s tools and systems to facilitate their own land consolidation initiatives.

Program Status Reports summarize progress and expenditures to date; identify lessons learned; and outline the Program’s economic impact and other benefits, including tribal projects occurring on land consolidated through implementation.