Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement

DOI won't place liens on land acquired under Cobell settlement

The Interior Department won't place liens on land acquired in connection with the Cobell trust fund settlement, a top official said.

The settlement creates a $1.9 billion fund for DOI to acquire fractionated interests from Indian beneficiaries. The land will then be returned to tribes.

But deputy Interior secretary David Hayes said the lien provisions of the Indian Land Consolidation Act won't apply to the Cobell settlement. That means requires tribes won't have to reimburse the federal government for the purchase price of the fractionated interests.

"The Solicitor's Office has concluded that the lien provisions of ILCA do not apply to the Cobell settlement and its implementing legislation," Hayes wrote in a letter to Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), who asked about the issue in an August 1 letter.

Tribal leaders have questioned the effectiveness of the land consolidation program, with liens being one of their main concerns. The Bureau of Indian Affairs opens a new trust account for each fractionated interest that's purchased, effectively defeating one of the purposes of land consolidation -- to reduce administrative costs.

The BIA holds onto the land and won't return it to tribes until the trust account is reimbursed for the purchase price. The agency also has imposed hefty administrative fees -- the Quapaw Tribe lost more than half of a $1 million earmark for its land consolidation program.

The Cobell settlement allows the BIA to take 15 percent for administrative costs. That comes to about $285 million.

The Cobell Land Consolidation Program Draft Plan was released in February.

Get the Story:
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole assured U.S. government won’t put liens on divided tribal lands (AP 8/11)

Related Stories:
DOI extends comment period for Cobell land consolidation (03/19)
Salazar urges quick work for Cobell trust reform commission (03/01)
Indian Trust Administration and Reform Commission to meet (2/29)
DOI releases land consolidation plan for Cobell settlement (2/2)