Participants in the Simnasho Powwow on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon. Photo: Alyssa Macy / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs

Warm Springs landowners see nearly $3.7 million in Cobell offers

Landowners from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are seeing nearly $3.7 million in offers for their fractional interests on the Oregon reservation.

The offers from the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations went out to 677 individuals, according to the latest data. As participation in entirely voluntary, interested sellers have until April 24 to accept.

“The Buy-Back Program is a unique opportunity for landowners to consider fair market value offers for their interests in fractionated land,” said John McClanahan, the director of the effort at the Department of the Interior. “In collaboration with tribes and federal partners, the program works to provide landowners with information to help them understand their land, offer, and options. Supporting informed decisionmaking by landowners is a cornerstone of the program.”

The program was created by the $3.4 billion settlement to the Cobell trust fund lawsuit. To stem the fractionation of Indian lands, in which parcels become owned by a growing number of individuals, and to promote tribal self-determination, $1.9 billion was set aside to acquire the small interests.

As of March 16, more than 63,000 individuals have been paid $1.26 billion for their fractional holdings. The equivalent of 2.16 million acres has been restored to tribal ownership as a result.

The program has proven popular across Indian Country since its launch in December 2013. But the Trump administration has indicated that it won't ask Congress for additional land consolidation funds once the Cobell money runs out.

Warm Springs is one of the last 20 reservations where the buy-back will be implemented. With the funds drying up, the Trump team decided to focus on places where it believed the money would be put to the best use.

Obama-era Department of the Interior Report:
2016 Status Report: Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (November 2016)

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