WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor hosted a Listening Session March 3 in Albuquerque, to hear directly from tribal leaders and individual landowners on the progress of the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (Buy-Back Program).
Deputy Secretary Connor was joined at the Albuquerque Convention Center by Special Trustee for American Indians Vincent G. Logan and Acting Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts.
As part of President Obama’s commitment to help strengthen Native American communities, the Buy-Back Program implements the land consolidation component of the Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value. There are almost 245,000 owners of nearly 3 million fractional interests, spanning 150 Indian reservations, who are eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program.
Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members. The Program recently launched a two-pronged Planning Initiative to help determine its next implementation schedule for 2017 and beyond.
Tribal governments not already scheduled for implementation and all landowners with fractional interests are invited to formally indicate their interest in participating in the Program no later than March 11, 2016. Since 2013, the Buy-Back Program has paid more than $735 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of approximately 1.5 million acres of land to tribal governments.