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The plan will use a flexible, adaptive management approach to make continuing improvements based on tribal feedback, lessons learned, and best practices. To unlock the beneficial use of the land and facilitate economic development, the proposed acquisition strategy will prioritize the consolidation of the most highly fractioned tracts of land and will structure acquisitions to maximize the number of tracts in which the tribe gains a controlling ownership interest. To achieve this goal, the Program will target fractionated tracts that are most amenable to cost-efficient valuation techniques.
The Buy-Back Program will be structured to allow as much opportunity for tribal participation and assistance as practical, including consulting with Indian tribes to identify acquisition priorities. The program will actively report progress and communicate with tribal communities throughout the life of the initiative.
Interior has been working on land consolidation efforts since the program was authorized by the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, but could not officially implement the program until the settlement was considered final on Nov. 24, 2012 after appeals were exhausted through the US Supreme Court.
"Now that the Cobell Settlement is final, we are eager to connect with American Indian individuals and tribal leaders across Indian country about the opportunities the program has to offer,"
said Interior Solicitor Hilary Tompkins.
"We urge tribal leaders to participate in the consultation processes outlined in the initial implementation plan, including the upcoming consultation sessions."
As part of the Interior's continuing dialogue with tribal nations, Interior will host three consultation sessions early next year to discuss the Initial Implementation Plan and receive tribal feedback:
January 31 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Febuary 6 in Rapid City, South Dakota; and
Febuary 14 in Seattle, Washington.
The Initial Implementation Plan reflects the comments received from tribal consultation sessions in the summer and fall of 2011 and the draft Implementation Plan released in January, 2012. The plan outlines the initial goals and priorities of the program, summarizes key parameters and operational concepts, and outlines ways in which tribes can participate in the Buy-Back Program through cooperative agreements. The Initial Implementation Plan is available for public comment for 75 days.
Interior holds about 56 million acres in trust for American Indians. More than 10 million acres are held for individual American Indians and nearly 46 million acres are held for Indian tribes. The department holds this land in more than 200,000 tracts, of which approximately 92,000 contain fractional ownership interests subject to purchase by the Buy-Back Program.
posted December 19, 2012 9:10 am est