April 15, 2015 –
Willing Sellers Have 45 Days to Respond in Voluntary
Land Buy-Back Program
WASHINGTON, DC – Deputy Secretary Michael Connor today announced that almost $10.5 million in additional purchase offers have been sent to more than 1,500 landowners with fractional interests at the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas. Interested sellers have 45 days – until June 8, 2015 – to return accepted offers in the pre-paid postage envelopes provided.
The Buy-Back Program began making offers in December 2013, and has already paid more than $365 million to individual landowners and restored the equivalent of almost 580,000 acres of land to tribal governments.
“The implementation of the Buy-Back Program is nearly 25 percent complete, and our work – both within the department and in partnership with tribal governments – is moving rapidly and effectively,” said Deputy Secretary Connor. “With these purchase offers, landowners in all 50 states with fractional interests at 15 locations have had the chance to participate in the Program.”
Individuals who choose to sell their interests receive payments directly into their Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. In addition to receiving fair market value for their land based on objective appraisals, sellers also receive a base payment of $75 per offer, regardless of the value of the land. Before implementation, the Department’s appraisal methodology was reviewed by The Appraisal Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the development of appraisal standards and establishing qualifications criteria for appraisers.
Offers are also currently pending at:
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (deadline: April 20)
Rosebud Indian Reservation (deadline: May 16)
Standing Rock Indian Reservation (deadline: June 1)
A percentage of Program sales, up to $60 million, is contributed to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, which will make financial assistance available to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training. Interior has thus far transferred more than $17 million to the Scholarship Fund. This contribution is in addition to the amounts paid to individual sellers, so it does not reduce the amount landowners receive for their interests.
The Buy-Back Program implements the land consolidation component of the CobellSettlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractional interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers at fair market value within 10 years. Consolidated interests are immediately restored to tribal trust ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal members.
There are approximately 245,000 owners of nearly three million fractional interests across Indian Country who are eligible to participate in the Buy-Back Program. Many see little or no economic benefit from what are often small, undivided interests in lands that cannot be utilized due to their highly fractionated state.
The Department has announced 42 locations where land consolidation activities such as planning, outreach, mapping, mineral evaluations, appraisals or acquisitions are expected to take place through the middle of 2017. These communities represent 83 percent of all outstanding fractional interests across Indian Country as described in the Program’s Status Report.
Landowners can contact the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 888-678-6836 to update their contact information, ask questions about their land or purchase offers, and learn about financial planning resources. Individuals can also visit their local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) or Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office, or find more information at http://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/landowners in order to make informed decisions about their land.
Interior recently held its 2015 Listening Session to receive feedback from tribal leaders and landowners on a number of issues related to the Program’s implementation. Written comments were also encouraged and must be received by April 20, 2015. More information is available via the Federal Register.
For information call the Land Buy-Back program at 785.966.4000.