Missoula
36° F
Clear
Clear
Kalispell
28° F
Snow
Snow
Bozeman
34° F
Overcast
Overcast
Advertisement

Daines calls for fairness in Indian land buy-back program

By KECI Staff
Published On: Apr 03 2014 08:48:23 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 03 2014 09:09:09 PM MDT
Daines calls for fairness in indian land buy-back program
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Representative Steve Daines led a hearing today with the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs to find out why a land buy-back program is behind schedule and surrounded by uncertainty.

Part of the settlement called for a one-time payment of close to $2 billion to consolidate highly fractionated interest of Indian lands.   Tribes say it's difficult to manage and holds back economic development.

Daines is calling for oversight and transparency, and for the Department of the Interior to conduct the plan fairly.

"...Navigating the government bureaucracy becomes even more complex as we heard from our witnesses here today and the land buy-back program has provided Indian country with the means to improve their future.  However, we hear today that the program is not working and the hope in Indian country is turning into frustration," Daines said in the subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C. Thursday.

In Montana, large amounts of highly fractionated Indian lands are in mineral-rich areas like the Bakken and the Powder River Coal Basin.

The following is a press release NBC Montana received March 21, 2014 from Steve Daines' office:

Representative Steve Daines today announced that he has secured a Congressional hearing examining the delays and uncertainty in the Land Buy Back Program for Tribal Nations authorized as part of the Cobell Settlement.

At Daines' request, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs will hold an oversight hearing on Thursday, April 3rd entitled "Implementing the Cobell Settlement:  Missed Opportunities and Lessons Learned." Daines serves as a member of Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs and the Congressional Native American Caucus.

"Since the authorization of the Cobell Settlement passed Congress, Tribes have dealt with needless uncertainty and delays, and are rightly concerned that the program is being designed without transparency and input from those in Indian country," Daines stated. "I appreciate that Chairman Don Young has responded to my request for a hearing on this important issue so that we can ensure the Department of Interior is working with Tribes to implement this program in an efficient and transparent way."

Last month, Daines requested an oversight hearing to fully examine the land buy back program implementation process and urge the U.S. Department of Interior to conduct the plan in a just and fair manner. Daines called for oversight and transparency as the U.S. Department of Interior works with Montana's tribes to implement the program.

The Cobell Settlement provided for the resolution of individual Indian claims to land and funds held in trust.  This settlement called for a one-time payment of $1.9 billion to fund an Interior Department program to consolidate highly fractionated interests of Indian lands into tribal ownership.  

Highly fractionated trust land is difficult and costly for individual Indian land owners and the Department of the Interior to manage, holding back potential opportunities for Tribes to make effective land-use decisions and manage land for economic development and resource development. In Montana, large amounts of highly fractionated Indian lands are in mineral-rich areas like the Bakken oil formation or Powder River Coal Basin.

Witnesses at next month's hearing will offer their insight into the current state of the land buy back program and provide solutions to make sure this program is working in the best interest of Indian communities.