Blog: BIA policy affects non-gaming acquisitions

"Last week, the Department of Interior rejected fee-to-trust applications for eleven tribes . Matthew has linked to the rejection letters elsewhere on this site. In rejecting these applications, the DoI has changed the method by which it will review all fee-to-trust applications under 25 C.F.R. Part 151. On January 3rd, Assistant Secretary of Interior Carl Artman , issued a letter to the BIA’s Regional Directors that established that all future applications will be subjected to a “commutable distance” test. In other words, if a tribe seeks to have land placed into trust, even for non-gaming economic development purposes, it must be within a distance where tribal citizens on the existing reservation can reasonably commute to jobs at the site. This had previously not been the case.

In addition, the new standards essentially confer a veto-power to state and local governments over tribal fee-to-trust applications. Artman stated in his letter that a tribe’s failure to reach an interlocal agreement with state and local governments relating to jurisdictional issues “should weigh heavily against the approval of the [fee-to-trust] application.” An example of this new provision in action can be found in the rejection letter sent to the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

These policy changes are significant and were enacted without any notice to tribes or opportunity to comment. The effect of the new policy, for gaming and non-gaming tribes alike, is to confine tribal economic development to existing reservations. Tribes in remote locations will find tough sledding under this policy."

Get the Story:
Bryan Newland: Department of Interior Changes Fee-to-Trust Process (Turtletalk 1/8)

Off-Reservation Gaming Policy:
Guidance on taking off-reservation land into trust for gaming purposes (January 3, 2008)

BIA Letters:
Big Lagoon Rancheria | Chemehuevi Tribe | Hannahville Indian Community | Jemez Pueblo | Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa | Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians | Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians | St. Regis Mohawk Tribe | Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians | Seneca-Cayuga Tribe | United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians | Other January 4 Tribes

Relevant Links:
Bureau of Indian Affairs -

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