Program encourages informed decisionmaking by landowners considering whether to accept a voluntary purchase offer
Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: November 22, 2019
Fond du Lac Reservation
WASHINGTON – In September 2019, the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations mailed nearly $2.1 million in purchase offers to nearly 2,900 owners of fractional land interests at the Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota. As of November 7, the Program has approved returned purchase offers for more than 1,300 fractional interests. The deadline for landowners to return their voluntary purchase offer packages is November 26, 2019.
The Program entered into a cooperative agreement with the Fond du Lac Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe to guide implementation at the Reservation. To date, the Program has entered into agreements with 51 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.
“Partnering with the Fond du Lac Band, the Department will strive to continue the successes of the Program by collaborating with the Tribal government on outreach to individual owners,” said Principal Deputy Special Trustee for American Indians Jerry Gidner. “Landowners are encouraged to learn more about their options in order to make an informed decision regarding this unique opportunity.”
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 Fond du Lac Band participated in the Cobell Land Buy-Back Program from 2015 to 2016 and saw great success,” said Fond du Lac Band Tribal Chairman Kevin R. Dupuis, Sr. “We are excited to be offering our landowners another chance to sell their fractionated land interests in 2019. Consolidating fractionated interests creates a better strategy for land management, protects cultural resources, and increases the opportunity for economic development, such as expanding housing options.”
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 November 12, 2019, approximately $262 million remain in the Trust Land Consolidation Fund, comprised of $136 million in the land purchase portion of the Fund and $126 million in the implementation portion of the Fund.
Since the Program began making offers in December 2013, more than 890,000 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 17,700 more tracts of land (representing an increase of more than 144 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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