Opinion

Nick Zaiac: Let tribes decide what to do with their own homelands






A Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company operation in Montezuma Creek, Utah. Photo by Dooda Fracking

Will Republican president-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress call for dramatic changes in the federal-tribal relationship? Nick Zaiac of the Maryland Public Policy Institute believes tribes should be able to exercise more authority over their lands and their resources:
The decision of whether to allow businesses that could have serious negative side effects to locate in a community matters to people. It affects their quality of life, their job prospects, and the tax base, which determines local services available to them. These businesses have mostly geographically limited “neighborhood effects,” local problems that require local decision-making to get right.

Depending on the circumstances, different factors influence the decisions that communities might reach. In some situations, it might be better to wait for another generation before exploiting a mineral deposit, so that better technology will exist to do the job more efficiently and yield a higher value to the tribe. Some tribes are in good financial shape today, while others are not. Some want more public services, which can only be provided by more economic activity and a broader tax base, while others want a cheaper government that does less.

For that reason, it should be the tribal communities surrounding those businesses that decide whether to engage in resource development. It should not be a distant federal government. It’s communities that will feel the effect of a decision to allow a mine or oil well. It’s communities that will feel the effect of a decision to value land for its ability to create jobs and economic opportunity, or to preserve its natural qualities. The important thing is that people have a choice rather than having that choice dictated to them by Washington.

Read More
Nick Zaiac: Trump's promise to get feds out of tribal land development a welcome change (The Hill 12/6)

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