November is Manatee Awareness Month; but no matter what time of year it is, manatees deserve to be celebrated. These amazing creatures fulfill a unique niche by serving as indicator species for ecosystems across the United States. Because of their reliance on the health of their habitat, manatees often act as a signal of their environment’s well-being. NOAA photo by Michael Buchanan.
Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
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 decision-making 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.
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. §§ 2201et seq.
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
Program Status Reports summarize progress and expenditures to date; identifiy lessons learned; and outline the Program’s economic impact and other benefits, including tribal projects occurring on land consolidated through implementation.