Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn have released final regulations that are expected to help streamline the leasing approval process on Indian land, spurring increased homeownership, and expediting business and commercial development, including renewable energy projects.
The comprehensive reform, informed by nation-to-nation tribal consultations and public comment, overhauls antiquated regulations governing the Bureau of Indian Affairs' process for approving the surface leases on lands the federal government holds in trust for Indian tribes and individuals. As trustee, the Department of the Interior (DOI) manages approximately 56 million surface acres in Indian Country.
Previous Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regulations, established in 1961, are outdated and unworkable in today's economy, according to the agencies. These types of delays have been significant obstacles to homeownership and economic development on tribal lands.
The new regulation, effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, will fundamentally change the way the BIA does business, in many ways by minimizing BIA's role and restoring greater control to tribal governments. The final rule provides clarity by identifying specific processes – with enforceable timelines – through which the BIA must review leases.
The regulation also establishes separate, simplified processes for residential, business and renewable energy development, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach that treats a lease for a single family home the same as a lease for a large wind energy project.