Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
On Monday, in advance of this week's White House Tribal Nations Conference, US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk announced a sweeping reform of federal surface leasing regulations for American Indian lands that will streamline the approval process for home ownership, expedite economic development and spur renewable energy development in Indian Country.
The proposed rule provides a 30 day limit for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to issue decisions on residential leases, subleases, and mortgages. For commercial or industrial development, the BIA would have 60 days to review leases and subleases. If the Bureau of Indian Affairs does not complete its review of subleases in this timeframe, those agreements will automatically go into effect.
Given these deadlines have never been in place within Bureau of Indian Affairs, this is a welcome announcement. It is common for simple single family home mortgage applications to be stalled for several years waiting approval from the federal government. This is senseless, for what family wants to wait years to obtain a mortgage that can happen typically within 30 days on fee simple land?
The proposed lease reforms would streamline the leasing process on tribal lands and clear the way for tribally driven renewable solar and wind energy projects according to the announcement. When approved, this will create economic development in Indian Country, which will translate into helping to build tribal economies and the creation of jobs Indian Country.
What is commendable about this announcement is over 70 tribes have already contributed input into the proposed reforms. This strengthens the ability for tribes to continue in the pathway of self-determination.
Further, the proposed deadlines will set the tone for a sense of urgency that has been seemingly lacking up until now to get through the "red tape" of government.
Unfortunately, there is a mandatory 60-day public comment period that cannot end soon enough, because the proposed deadlines are steps in the right direction to fix a problem that has existed for too long.
Public comments can be made via email at: email@example.com, or by US Postal Service, overnight carrier or hand-delivery to:
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20240
posted November 30, 2011 9:30 am est
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