Interior’s Deputy Secretary to Host Listening Session on Land Buy-Back Program in...

Interior’s Deputy Secretary to Host Listening Session on Land Buy-Back Program in New Mexico

Pending Landowner Offers at Four Reservations About to Come Due

WASHINGTON – December 08, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor will host a listening session on March 3, 2016, at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 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 Special Trustee for American Indians Vince Logan.

In addition to the listening session, which will be held from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. MT, federal staff will be available from 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. to discuss the Program, answer landowner questions, provide information about financial education and appraisals, and register interested sellers.

“We look forward to hearing from tribal leaders and landowners, and sharing news of the significant accomplishments that have occurred thus far,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “Together through our nation-to-nation engagement with tribal governments, 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. The Buy-Back Program is an exceptional opportunity that should not be taken for granted.”

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.

The Program recently released its 2015 Status Report, which summarizes its implementation to date and significant economic impact in Indian Country. Since the Program began making offers in December 2013, nearly $730 million has been paid to individual landowners and the equivalent of nearly 1.5 million acres of land has been restored to tribal governments. Tribal communities are already benefitting from the land consolidated. The Status Report spotlights several examples where tribes are realizing critical goals and priorities.

Landowners in all 50 states – and many residing abroad – have had the opportunity to participate in the Program. Offers are currently pending at:

• Swinomish Indian Reservation (deadline: December 11, 2015)
• Lummi Indian Reservation (deadline: December 31, 2015)
• Fort Peck Indian Reservation (deadline: December 31, 2015)
• Umatilla Indian Reservation (deadline: January 7, 2016)

The Program recently announced a two-pronged planning initiative to help determine its next implementation schedule for 2017 and beyond. The first part seeks input from tribal governments who are interested in participating in the Program. Eligible tribal governments not already scheduled for implementation are invited to formally indicate their interest in participating in the Program no later than March 11, 2016.

The second part is a nationwide recruitment drive to further identify and engage landowners who are interested in learning more about this opportunity. When the Buy-Back Program evaluates locations for implementation, one factor among others that is considered is the number of landowners at the location who have registered as willing sellers. While landowners can indicate their interest at any time, only registrations before March 11, 2016, will be used to determine the next implementation schedule.

Landowners are encouraged to visit or call the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) office nearest them or contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at (888) 678-6836 to: (a) learn more about the Buy-Back Program and their fractional interests; (b) update their contact information, if necessary; and (c) register as a willing seller, if interested.

Registration in no way commits a landowner to sell, nor does it guarantee that a landowner will receive an offer. It is simply the best way to ensure the Program is aware of a landowner’s desire to receive an offer and provides an opportunity for advance outreach and information to be shared with the landowner at the earliest possible time.

More information and detailed frequently asked questions are available at www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ to help individuals make informed decisions about their land.

Contact: Jessica Kershaw, Interior_Press (at) ios.doi (dot) gov

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