[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 8 (Wednesday, January 13, 2016)]
[Pages 1639-1640]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-00496]



Office of the Secretary

[133D5670LC DLCAP0000.000000 DS10100000 DX.10129]

Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations Under Cobell Settlement

AGENCY: Office of the Deputy Secretary, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: On November 4, 2015, the Department of the Interior released 
the 2015 Status Report for the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations 
(Buy-Back Program or Program), which summarizes its implementation to 
date: https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/about. Since December 2013, 
the Program has paid nearly $715 million to individual landowners and 
has restored approximately 1.5 million acres of land to tribal 
    The Report highlights the Program's launch of two efforts to help 
determine its next implementation schedule. The two-pronged planning 
initiative seeks input from tribal governments and landowners 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. More information is available to tribal leaders at: 
https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/tribes. Additionally, the Program 
has launched a nationwide recruitment drive to identify and engage 
landowners who are interested in learning more about this opportunity.
    The Department also announced that Deputy Secretary Connor will 
host a Listening Session on March 3, 2016, at the Albuquerque 
Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. MT.

DATES: The Department will accept expressions of interest from eligible 
tribal governments that exercise jurisdiction over locations not on its 
current implementation schedule until March 11, 2016. Interested 
landowners are strongly encouraged to contact the Trust Beneficiary 
Call Center (Call Center) at 888-678-6836 to register their interest 
and confirm contact information by that same deadline, in order for 
their interest to be incorporated as a factor as

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the Program develops its next implementation schedule.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Tribal staff should contact 
[email protected] with questions regarding the expressions of 
interest. Landowners seeking to register their interest should contact 
the Call Center at (888) 678-6836.


I. Background

    The Buy-Back Program is the Department of the Interior's 
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 voluntarily 
choose to sell fractional land interests for fair market value. 
Purchased lands are then transferred to the tribal government with 
jurisdiction for uses to benefit the tribal community as a whole.
    Individuals who accept their purchase offers receive payments 
directly into their Individual Indian Money accounts at the Office of 
Special Trustee for American Indians (OST). In addition to receiving 
fair market value based on objective appraisals, individuals also 
receive a base payment of $75 per offer, regardless of the value of the 
    The Department is currently implementing the Buy-Back Program at 
multiple locations across Indian Country. Thus far, the Program has 
paid nearly $715 million directly to individuals who have chosen to 
sell fractional interests. This has restored the equivalent of more 
than 1.5 million acres to tribes. Our working relationships with tribes 
(25 cooperative agreements or other arrangements to date) and continued 
outreach to landowners are important elements of continued progress.

II. Planning Initiative--Tribal Nations

    The Buy-Back Program's implementation schedule has thus far been 
guided by various planning activities, an open solicitation from 
November 2013-March 2014, and by a number of factors developed in 
partnership with tribal leaders and individuals through early Program 
consultation and one-on-one meetings. Those factors include severity of 
fractionation; degree of ownership overlap between locations; 
geographic location to maximize efficiency and resources; appraisal 
complexity; and overall interest of a tribe.
    Using this strategy, the Department identified 42 locations where 
land consolidation activities--such as planning, outreach, mapping, 
mineral evaluations, appraisals or acquisitions--are expected to take 
place through the middle of 2017. These communities represented 
approximately 83 percent of all outstanding fractional interests across 
Indian Country. More information on this selection can be found in the 
Program's 2014 Status Report: https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/Buy-BackProgramStatusReport-11-20-14.pdf.
    The Program is currently inviting all eligible tribal governments 
that exercise jurisdiction over locations not on its current 
implementation schedule to submit expressions of interest regarding 
participation. In addition to noting any interest, the Program also 
seeks to understand what plans each tribal government may have to 
utilize consolidated lands, such as economic development, additional 
housing, infrastructure improvements, habitat protection, and cultural 
preservation. Details regarding this solicitation are available at 
https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/tribes. This will likely be one of 
the final opportunities for the remaining eligible tribal governments 
to register their interest in participating in the Program. The Program 
will accept expressions of interest through March 11, 2016.

III. Planning Initiative--Interested Landowners

    There are about 245,000 owners of nearly three million fractional 
interests across Indian Country who are eligible to participate in the 
Buy-Back Program. Many receive little or no economic benefit from what 
are often small, undivided interests in lands that cannot be utilized 
due to their highly fractionated state.
    Since the inception of the Buy-Back Program, it has been a priority 
to provide as much access to information as possible to landowners who 
may be interested in participating. Across the Department, teams within 
the Offices of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary, OST and the Bureau 
of Indian Affairs (BIA) have conducted significant outreach to provide 
resources to individuals so that they may make informed decisions about 
the use of their fractional land.
    The level of interest--or willing sellers--registered with the 
Department has always been one of the determining factors as the 
Program develops its implementation schedules. In fact, we have 
identified more than 15,000 unique willing sellers across the country. 
The Program has now launched a nationwide recruitment drive to further 
identify and engage landowners who are interested in participating in 
the Program.
    Interested landowners should call the Call Center at (888) 678-6836 
to register their interest and confirm contact information. While 
landowners who do not register as willing sellers may still receive an 
offer, contacting the Call Center is the best way to ensure that the 
Program is aware of their interest in receiving and considering an 
offer. Registration in no way commits a landowner to sell their land 
and is no guarantee that they will receive an offer; it merely 
identifies the landowner's interest in receiving an offer.

IV. Additional Resources

    Information about the Program is available at: http://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram. To learn more about how the Program works, understand 
the appraisal process, or receive financial training and resources to 
think strategically about how to use funds they may receive, 
individuals can contact the Call Center or visit their local OST or BIA 
    Extensive frequently asked questions and answers are also online 
at: http://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners/upload/Frequently-Asked-Questions.pdf.

    Dated: December 21, 2015.
Michael L. Connor,
Deputy Secretary.
[FR Doc. 2016-00496 Filed 1-12-16; 8:45 am]