Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
Seasoned backpacker and adventurer Yang Lu earned the grand prize in the 2015 Share the Experience photo contest with this image of a sunburst captured at sunrise in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. Yang has made the outdoors part of his daily life and finds deep connection to the land through his lens.
“My photography is not just for recreation, it is to inspire people to explore these areas." -- Yang Lu
Photo by Yang Lu (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.
I am writing to update you on the Department of the Interior's preparations to utilize the Cobell Settlement's Trust Land Consolidation Fund. Congress authorized the Department's use of this Fund to purchase individual Indians' fractionated interests in trust and restricted lands. Purchased interests will remain in trust and be consolidated for tribal use, without a lien, thereby freeing up those trust lands for beneficial use by tribal communities.
The Department cannot begin to administer the Trust Land Consolidation Fund until all appeals related to the Cobell Settlement are final. We are hopeful that the remaining appeals will be resolved soon. When that occurs, we will contact you to ask for your assistance in moving forward with the Department's land consolidation program.
In the meantime, I wanted to give you an update on our preparations. First, the Department held seven consultations with tribal leaders in the summer and fall of 2011 to obtain your input on how we should implement the Department's trust land consolidation program. These government-to-government consultations led to our release of a draft implementation plan in February 2012. As indicated in that plan, not all reservations contain land eligible for purchase by the Department. Many of you provided additional comments on the draft plan, and we expect to release an updated draft plan in the coming months. I would like to thank those tribes who have participated in consultations to date, and I look forward to further tribal feedback once the updated version is released.
Second, I also wanted to share with you some of our staffing actions for the Department's trust land consolidation program. Because of the program's size and importance, we have put together a team that will operate out of the Office of the Secretary and report to me, as the Deputy Secretary, working closely with staff from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Special Trustee, along with other bureaus. Mr. John McClanahan will be the Program Manager for this effort. He will be joined by Mr. Anthony Walters, who currently is serving as Counselor to the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs. In addition, Mr. Darryl LaCounte, Senior Advisor to the Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, will be part of the core management team. I would also like to mention the recent addition of Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, who will play a key role in the future implementation of this program.
Third, I wanted to assure you that we intend to work closely with the tribes in identifying priority lands for purchase under the Department's land consolidation program. We are committed to taking full advantage of the experience that a number of tribes have had in operating successful land consolidation programs. In that regard, if your Tribe operates a land consolidation or land acquisition program that you believe provides a potential model for identifying lands that should be targeted for potential purchase, communications with landowners, or the use of appraisal techniques, please contact us and share your experiences.
Thank you again for your participation in the Department's planning process. We look forward to continuing to receive the benefit of your input as we move forward with our planning effort. In the meantime, if you have any questions or would like to engage in follow-up on these items, please contact Mr. Anthony Walters at Anthony.Walters@bia.gov or (202) 513-0897.