Program encourages informed decisionmaking by landowners considering whether to accept a voluntary purchase offer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: October 2, 2019
WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior announced today that approximately 1,500 landowners with fractional interests at the Bois Forte Reservation in Minnesota have been sent nearly $3.5 million in purchase offers from the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.
Landowners who received purchase offers have until October 18, 2019 to consider and return accepted offers in the pre-paid postage envelopes provided.
The Program has entered into a memorandum of agreement with the Bois Forte Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe to guide implementation at the Reservation. To date, the Program has entered into agreements with 52 tribal nations to cooperatively implement the Buy-Back Program. The agreements outline coordinated strategies to facilitate education about the Program to landowners but are unique based on particular circumstances at each location.
“The Department recognizes the immense value that tribal involvement brings to our mutual land consolidation efforts,” said Principal Deputy Special Trustee Gidner. “As we continue implementation at the Reservation, our partnership with the Bois Forte Band will ensure we achieve the greatest success for the benefit of landowners and the tribal community.”
Various informational tools are available to landowners, who are encouraged to think strategically about their options and carefully consider how to use the funds they receive from selling their land. The Program’s website includes detailed frequently asked questions, a schedule of upcoming outreach events, and additional information to help individuals make informed decisions about their land.
Landowners are encouraged to call the Trust Beneficiary Call Center (Call Center) at 888-678-6836 or visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) office to ensure that their address on file is current, ask questions about their land or purchase offers, and request a copy of the appraisal completed for their land.
The Buy-Back Program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to consolidate fractional interests in trust or restricted land within a 10-year period set to expire in November 2022. As of September 22, 2019, approximately $268 million remain, comprised of $141 million in the land purchase portion of the fund and $127 million in the implementation portion of the fund.
Since the Program began making offers in December 2013, nearly 885,000 fractional interests have been transferred to tribal governments, which represents 36 percent of the total fractional interests in 2013 at the 52 locations where Program implementation has occurred and the equivalent of 2.6 million acres of land. As a result of the Buy-Back Program, tribal ownership now exceeds 50 percent in 17,400 more tracts of land (representing an increase of more than 142 percent for the locations where implementation has occurred), facilitating the exercise of tribal sovereignty and self-determination.
Returning fractionated lands to tribes in trust has the potential to improve tribal community resources by increasing home site locations, improving transportation routes, spurring economic development, easing approval for infrastructure and community projects, and preserving traditional cultural or ceremonial sites.
The 2019 appropriations process realigned the Land Buy-Back Program from the Office of the Secretary to OST. The realignment of the Buy-Back Program institutionalizes best practices to fulfill the Department’s fiduciary duties. Further, it strengthens coordination efforts and opportunities to streamline processes.
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