Interior Deputy Secretary Connor to Host Listening Session on Land Buy-Back Program

Written Comments Welcome through April 20, 2015

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Michael Connor will host a Listening Session on March 19, 2015 to hear directly from tribal leaders and individual landowners on the progress of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program). Deputy Secretary Connor will be joined by Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.

As part of President Obama's commitment to help strengthen Native American communities, the Buy-Back Program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value within 10 years. Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.

Thus far the Buy-Back Program has paid nearly $340 million to individual landowners and has restored the equivalent of over 540,000 acres of land to tribal governments.

“The Department is collaborating with tribes through nation-to-nation partnerships built on mutual trust and respect, and that uphold the sovereignty of tribal nations,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “The Buy-Back Program is an exceptional opportunity that cannot be taken for granted. Together with tribal leaders, we are seeking to constantly improve the Program. And, importantly, we are focused on ensuring that landowners are aware of the Program and are given every opportunity to make informed decisions about the potential sale of their land at fair market value.”

Originally announced as part of the release of the Program's Status Report in November 2014, the Listening Session is intended to gather input on a number of areas related to the implementation of the Buy-Back Program. While the Department welcomes feedback related to any aspect of the Program, the following areas are of particular interest:

  • Areas for Improvement

  • Implementation at Less-Fractionated Locations

  • Locating Whereabouts Unknown Interests

  • Management of Purchase Estimates

  • Offers for Interests in Tracts with Structural Improvements

  • Outreach to Landowners

  • Purchase Offer Package Materials

  • Reimbursement for Post-Settlement Purchases of Fractional Interests

  • Use of Public Domain or “Off-Reservation” Lands

“The Buy-Back Program is expanding sovereignty by restoring fractional interests in lands to tribes, and distributing hundreds of millions of dollars to interest owners,” said Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs. “The Program addresses a significant problem that has plagued the federal government, and taxpayers, for decades.”

More information is available in the Federal Register. Written comments are also encouraged and must be received by April 20, 2015. Tribal input has been critical to making necessary enhancements to the Buy-Back Program. The Department is committed to learning from every sale at every location and making adjustments, where necessary, that are transparent and fair. For example, among adjustments influenced by tribal input, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians announced this past year that the agencies were updating their existing system of record notices (SORNs). The updated SORNs will make it easier to exchange information with tribal governments as they work to help implement land consolidation activities in cooperation with the Buy-Back Program. These updates respond to comments during government-to-government consultations, presentations, and the Program's 2014 Listening Session, in which tribal representatives expressed a need for greater and simpler access to landowner information – such as phone, email and individual offer status – in order to effectively conduct outreach and land consolidation activities in cooperation with the Program.

Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 with questions about their purchase offers. Individuals can also visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office, or find more information at in order to make informed decisions about their land.

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