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.
There are approximately 150 unique reservations that have fractional interests. 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. §§ 2201 et seq.
The Status Report, which builds on and replaces the Updated Implementation Plan released in November 2013, summarizes the key parameters of the Settlement and the corresponding implementation approach and processes of the Program. It also provides an overview of progress and expenditures to date, identifies a number of lessons learned, and responds to feedback from tribes and individuals through answers to frequent questions. Moreover, the Report includes additional and updated fractionation data in response to tribal requests for more information. Finally, the Report sets forth a number of key next steps, including an updated schedule that includes 21 more locations and additional tribal consultation in March 2015.
The Secretary established the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program) to implement the land consolidation aspects of the Settlement. With the additional benefit of tribal feedback and involvement, the Updated Implementation Plan, released in November 2013, incorporates best practices and lessons learned into its goals and priorities; summarizes key parameters and operational concepts; facilitates tribal participation in the Program; describes the primary land consolidation processes (i.e., Outreach, Land Research, Valuation, and Acquisition); and outlines next steps for additional tribal consultation, public comment, and continued Buy-Back Program planning and implementation.
The Initial Implementation Plan, released in December 2012, outlined the Buy-Back Program's initial approach to achieving successful land consolidation purchases.
Approximately 150 locations across Indian Country, which are listed in this table, are the focus of the Buy-Back Program. Locations are listed in order of land area code. Data is as of 09/30/14. Fractionation data for 2013 is available here.