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Press Release

Examining Challenges and Solutions to Land Consolidation in Indian Country

  • IP Subcommittee

Today, the Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs held an oversight hearing on the opportunities and challenges of land consolidation in Indian Country. Subcommittee Chair Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) issued the following statement in response:

"As this subcommittee has explored in previous hearings, barriers to land use and development of land in Indian Country frequently discourage economic development and investment. Fractionated lands discussed during today‚Äôs hearing are another barrier to development, because generally a majority interest is needed to make land use decisions. If an allotment has 50 or 100 co-owners, it can be unaffordable and logistically prohibitive to gain a majority interest agreement for land use. As a result, adjacent tribally controlled land can remain undeveloped and individual Indian landowners do not receive benefits. Several studies have made it clear, however, that funding massive buyback programs is not the be all end all in ending land fractionation. I want to thank our witnesses for sharing their experiences with the Land Buy Back Program and what other efforts tribes, organizations, and individual Indian landowners are taking to prevent further fractionation of land interests. We must all work towards cohesive, interrelated solutions that prevent further fractionation. We have to do better for Indian Country."

Background

Over time, land allotment policies implemented by the federal government have led to multiple individuals owning a fractionated interest in the same piece of Indian land. Fractionation of Indian land creates significant land management and administration challenges for both tribes and individual Indian owners, resulting in barriers to economic development, land management and use. Fractionated Indian land is rarely utilized for development primarily because a majority interest in the land is required to make decisions about the use of the land. 

Any solutions for reducing land fractionation and encouraging land consolidation within Indian reservations should seek to prevent further fractionation of interests in land, encourage consolidation where necessary or desired, and incentivize informed land management.

Congress should consider potential probate reforms, self-sustaining land consolidation funds and other creative solutions to prevent land fractionation from continuing to prevent economic development in Indian Country. 

Today's hearing was an opportunity for members to learn more about these issues and hear from representatives of tribes from across the country about potential reforms that can help overcome existing challenges. 

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