[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 226 (Monday, November 24, 2014)]
[Pages 69879-69880]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-27773]



Office of the Secretary

[Fund: 133D5670LC, Fund Center: DS10100000 Functional Area: 
DLCAP0000.000000 WBS: DX.10120]

Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations Under Cobell Settlement

AGENCY: Office of the Deputy Secretary, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations has released its 
2014 Status Report that details what the Program has been doing to 
execute terms of the Cobell Settlement. The Program continues to 
actively engage tribes and individuals across Indian Country to raise 
awareness of the Program and will host a listening session on March 19, 
2015, in Laveen, Arizona. We hope to receive feedback on the Report 
from tribes and individuals.

DATES: The listening session will take place on March 19, 2015, at the 
Vee Quiva Hotel, 15091 South Komatke Lane, Laveen, AZ 85339. Comments 
must be received by April 20, 2015.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Treci Johnson, Public Relations 
Specialist, Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, (202) 208-6916.


I. Background

    The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program or 
Program) is the Department of the Interior's (Department) collaborative 
effort with Indian Country to realize the historic opportunity afforded 
by the Cobell Settlement--a $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation 
Fund--to compensate individuals who willingly choose to transfer 
fractional land interests to tribal nations for fair market value. 
Directly following final approval of the Settlement in December 2012 
and early consultations in 2011, the Department established the Buy-
Back Program and published an Initial Implementation Plan in light of 
consultation that occurred in 2011 and 2012. The Department released an 
Updated Implementation Plan in November 2013 after several rounds of 
additional government-to-government consultation with tribes and 
feedback on the Initial Implementation Plan.
    The Department is currently implementing the Buy-Back Program at 
multiple locations across Indian Country. Thus far, the Program has 
made $754 million in offers to individual landowners and paid more

[[Page 69880]]

than $209 million directly to more than 16,000 individuals that decided 
to sell fractional interests. This has restored the equivalent of more 
than 350,000 acres to tribes. Our working relationships with tribes (12 
cooperative agreements or other arrangements to date) and continued 
outreach to landowners are important elements of continued progress.

II. Listening Session

    The purpose of the upcoming listening session is to gather input 
from tribes in order for the Department to continue to refine its land 
consolidation processes, and engage individual landowners who may have 
questions about the Program. An agenda and RSVP information will be 
announced closer to the date of the event.

III. Seeking Tribal Input

    The Buy-Back Program is committed to continuous consultations 
throughout the life of the Program in compliance with the letter and 
spirit of Executive Order 13175 (Consultation and Coordination with 
Indian Tribal Governments) and Secretarial Order 3314 (Department of 
the Interior Policy on Consultation with Indian Tribes).
    At the beginning of 2013, Department officials conducted extensive 
tribal consultations on the following:
    (1) Developing an efficient, fair process for landowners of 
fractionated interests to participate in the Buy-Back Program;
    (2) Identifying and maximizing opportunities for tribal 
involvement; and
    (3) Offering tribes flexibility to execute Program requirements in 
the manner best suited for the unique needs of each community.
    While the Department welcomes feedback related to any aspect of the 
Program, the following areas are of particular interest:
     Implementation at Less-Fractionated Locations. There are 
about 110 less-fractionated locations that contain approximately 10 
percent of the outstanding fractional interests. The Program continues 
to explore ways for additional less-fractioned locations to participate 
in buy-back efforts in an efficient and cost-effective manner. For 
example, the Buy-Back Program has received requests from tribes for 
reimbursement of past and future purchases of fractionated interests 
acquired under tribal or other land consolidation efforts. To date, no 
reimbursement requests have been awarded through the Buy-Back Program. 
Until the Program renders a decision on such reimbursement requests, no 
reimbursement requests will be granted, and tribes should not proceed 
with that expectation. The Program encourages the submission of 
comments or ideas on whether and how reimbursements might work.
     Whereabouts Unknown. Whereabouts unknown (WAU) is the term 
used to describe IIM account holders without current address 
information on file with OST. The Settlement provides for an outreach 
effort to locate landowners whose whereabouts are unknown as of the 
date of final approval of the Settlement. The Program has not exercised 
WAU purchases thus far and is seeking input from tribes and individuals 
on whether and how it should implement the provision. Since the 
Program's inception, the focus has been locating WAU through outreach 
efforts so the individuals can receive and consider an offer.
     Improvements. Where structural improvements exist on a 
tract, a number of issues may complicate the acquisition of fractional 
interests in the tract. While the Program does not intend to acquire 
structural improvements, which are non-trust property, the Program 
seeks additional feedback from landowners and tribes about acquiring 
interests in tracts with structural improvements, including instances 
in which the Program might choose to acquire interests. For example, 
the Program might make offers for interests in a tract with non-
residential structural improvements (e.g., a tract only with an 
uninhabited agricultural shed or hay barn), but not on tract where 
residences are located unless the tribe has a policy or resolution in 
place ensuring that residents' interests are recognized and protected.
     Public Domain. Under the Settlement, fractional interests 
acquired by the Program are to be immediately held in trust or 
restricted status for the recognized tribe that exercises jurisdiction 
over the land. When identifying the locations with fractional interests 
that may be consolidated, the Program excludes land area names that 
include the term public domain or off reservation because use of these 
terms indicate that there may be no recognized tribe that exercises 
jurisdiction over the land. The Program has encouraged feedback, 
however, on the list of locations in its 2012 and 2013 implementation 
plans. Since then, the Program has received feedback from several 
tribes suggesting that certain land areas should be included. The 
Program is now seeking general feedback on whether and if so how the 
Program should incorporate public domain or off reservation land areas 
into the Program, including any suggested standards or processes that 
could be applied.

IV. Additional Resources

    The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations 2014 Status Report and 
additional information about the Buy-Back Program is available at: 
http://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram. In addition, landowners can contact 
their local Fiduciary Trust Officer or call Interior's Trust 
Beneficiary Call Center at (888) 678-6836.

    Dated: November 19, 2014.
Michael L. Connor,
Deputy Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2014-27773 Filed 11-21-14; 8:45 am]