The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Indian Affairs recently announced it will hold nation-to-nation consultations with tribes on draft amendments regarding the fee-to-trust process and Class III gaming compacts.
In a letter to tribal leaders, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland wrote, “The changes we are exploring represent progress towards good governance and follow-through on the Biden-Harris administration’s commitments to Indian Country. We understand the importance of ensuring a timely and efficient process for taking land into trust and providing clarity on Class III gaming compact negotiations. We look forward to additional feedback from Tribes on how to further improve these proposed amendments.”
Newland said the changes being considered to 25 C.F.R. Part 151 regarding taking land into trust for tribes would result in a more efficient, less cumbersome and less expensive fee-to-trust process. The revisions would clarify the Secretary of the Interior’s authority to take land in trust for tribes, reduce processing time and establish decision-making criteria.
The proposed changes would build on actions taken by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in her first month in office. In April 2021, Haaland issued Secretary’s Order 3400, reversing actions taken in 2017 that unnecessarily elevated land-into-trust decisions to the Department’s headquarters staff, thereby causing delays.
Other changes are being considered for 25 C.F.R. Part 293, which governs the review and approval of tribal-state gaming compacts. The changes would streamline the approval process by clarifying allowable topics of negotiation, defining key terms and clearly explaining when a gaming compact must be reviewed.
Newland said the Department will conduct four virtual consultation sessions from May 9 to May 23 and accept oral and written comments about the proposed changes. For more information, visit bia.gov.