Dancers on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Photo: Visions Service Adventures

Landowners on Northern Cheyenne Reservation see $24 million in Cobell offers

The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations has returned to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

Landowners on the reservation in Montana have received more than $24 million in offers for their fractional interests, the Department of the Interior announced on Monday. Interested sellers have until January 14, 2019, to respond.

“In partnership with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the Buy-Back Program is working hard to build on the achievements of the initial implementation at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation to assist the tribe in achieving its goals of increasing economic development and housing opportunities, and of making better culturally based resource management decisions regarding their land base,” said program director John McClanahan. “The Buy-Back Program is a unique opportunity for landowners to consider fair market value offers for their fractional land interests. Acceptance of the voluntary purchase offers will help further the tribe’s desire to preserve the land for generations to come.”

Cobell offers previously went out on the reservation in August 2014. According to Interior, about 1,200 landowners accepted nearly $9.9 million at the time for their fractional interests.

The equivalent of 20,130 acres was returned to tribal ownership as a result of the initiative. Additional acreage would be transferred to the tribe after the second round of offers has been completed.

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 buy these interests.

As of November 9, individual Indians have received nearly $1.3 billion for their interests. The equivalent of 2.23 million acres has been restored to tribes, the original owners of the land.

Participation in the program is entirely voluntary but tribes like Northern Cheyenne have entered into cooperative agreements with Interior to facilitate sales and educate landowners about the benefits of selling their interests. During the first round in 2014, 47 percent of individuals who received offers accepted then, which is about the same as the national acceptance rate of 46 percent.

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

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