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BIA approves HEARTH Act leasing regulations for New Mexico tribe

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), seated on right, joins Ohkay Owingeh Governor Earl Salazar, center, and Acting Assistant Secretary Larry Roberts at tribal council chambers for the HEARTH Act signing on January 4, 2015. Photo from Facebook

Ohkay Owingeh in New Mexico has joined the growing list of tribes that are taking advantage of the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act.

The tribe's surface land leasing regulations were approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs pursuant to the law. That means the tribe won't need the agency's approval for every single lease in the future.

“We are now able to establish and carry out these laws. As an entrepreneurial tribe, we look forward to working with local businesses,” Governor Earl Salazar said in a press release. “It all comes back to sovereignty and, finally, we have control over our land to help support our people.”

The tribe is now the 23rd with approved HEARTH Act regulations. The law's flexibility -- it can be used for residential, business, housing and other types of leases -- has proven attractive to Indian Country.

"I'm honored to join the people of Ohkay Owingeh to mark this milestone in strengthening self-determination and tribal sovereignty, and open doors to more jobs and economic development in Indian Country," Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico), who visited the reservation on Monday for the signing ceremony, said in a press release.

"Ohkay Owingeh joins a growing number of tribes that are exercising sovereignty over the leasing of their lands to promote the health, welfare and prosperity of their people," added Larry Roberts, who will be acting as the head of the BIA for the remainder of the Obama administration. "By this action, decision making over the use of tribal land is now squarely in the hands of the tribal government."

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