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Commentary: Easing the land into trust process

"Several years ago, I suggested a fix for this problem and offered it in a comment letter to the BIA on its proposed revisions to its regulations for Acquisition of Title to Land in Trust. The BIA did not adopt my idea for fixing this problem. But neither did the BIA fix the problem, which has only gotten worse since then - so I am offering up this idea again.

NEPA applies to the act of accepting title to land in trust for a tribe because this is a federal action that can have environmental consequences. One might think that NEPA should not apply, because the act of accepting title does not, in and of itself, have any environmental consequences. Once the BIA has accepted title in trust, however, a tribe can engage in activities that do have environmental consequences, and some of those activities do not require any further action by the BIA. So, since the action of accepting title in trust makes it possible for a tribe to do things that affect the environment and which are not subject to any further BIA review, it has long been Interior's position that NEPA compliance must be achieved before it will accept title.

Anyone who has ever gone through this can think of a number of reasons why it shouldn't be this way. Here's one good reason, one that applies most forcefully to tribes that are trying to buy back land within their reservation boundaries that passed out of trust as a result of the allotment-era laws of federal Indian policy."

Get the Story:
Attorney Dean Suagee: Getting land into federal trust status (Indian Country Today 9/1)

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