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BIA proposes regulation to address land-into-trust appeals

The Obama administration is proposing a new regulation to address land-into-trust appeals in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Salazar v. Patchak.

In Patchak, the Supreme Court ruled that opponents can sue the Bureau of Indian Affairs for up to six years after the land is placed in trust. As a result, the administration says it is no longer necessary to wait 30 days for any appeals.

"Specifically, this rule deletes the 30-day waiting period for implementation of decisions to acquire land in trust after such decisions are final for the [Interior] Department," a forthcoming notice in the Federal Register states.

"Following the Patchak decision, this 30-day waiting period is now unnecessary because parties may seek, to the extent it is available, judicial review of the Secretary’s decision ... even after the land is acquired by the United States in trust," the notice states.

Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA, said the new regulation will bring more clarity to the land-into-trust process. Tribes are invited to submit comments.

“The principal purpose of this proposed rule is to provide greater certainty to tribes in their ability to develop lands acquired in trust for purposes such as housing, schools and economic development,” Washburn said in a press release. “For such acquisitions, the proposed rule will create a ‘speak now or forever hold your peace moment’ in the land-into-trust process. If parties do not appeal the decision within the administrative appeal period, tribes will have the peace of mind to begin development without fear that the decision will be later overturned.”

Forthcoming Federal Register Notice:
Land Acquisitions: Appeals of Land Acquisition Decisions (To Be Published May 29, 2013)

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