Top DOI officials in New Mexico for Cobell buy-back listening session


Michael Connor, a descendant of Taos Pueblo, serves as the deputy secretary at the Interior Department. Photo from Bureau of Reclamation

Top Interior Department officials will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Thursday for a listening session on the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations.

The session takes place from 1pm-5pm at the Albuquerque Convention Center. Deputy Secretary Michael Connor, Special Trustee Vince Logan and Larry Roberts, the acting head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs will hear from tribal leaders and landowners about the program that has put more than $736 million into the hands of individual Indians.

The $3.4 billion Cobell settlement provided $1.9 billion for Indian landowners who want to sell their fractionated interests. The Interior Department will pay "fair market value" as required by the Indian Land Consolidation Act.

As of February 26, the department has made nearly $1.8 billion in offers and more than 32,000 landowners have received more than $736.6 million for their interests. The equivalent of nearly 1.5 million acres has been transferred to tribal governments.

The settlement requires DOI to distribute the $1.9 billion within 10 years of making the first offers, which went out in late 2013. Some $258 million of that amount was set aside for administrative fees and tribes have been entering into cooperative agreements to help facilitate the program.

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