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Native American land buy-back program to consolidate splintered parcels, benefiting economic development

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The Interior Department will help Tribal Nations consolidate splintered parcels of land. Bob Berwyn photo.

Voluntary program aimed at boosting community land use for Tribal Nations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Thousands of smaller parcels of land owned by individual Native Americans could be consolidated for beneficial use by tribes under a new $1.9 billion buy-back program announced by the Department of Interior this week.

The buy-back program for tribal nations will purchase fractional interests in American Indian trust lands from willing sellers. Fractionation of Indian lands stems primarily from the General Allotment Act of 1887, when  tribal lands were allotted to individual tribal members, often in 80 or 160-acre parcels. The lands have been handed down to heirs over successive generations, causing the number of shared interests in one parcel to grow exponentially. Currently, more than 92,000 tracts of land held in trust for American Indians contain 2.9 million fractional interests.

When tracts have so many co-owners, it is often difficult and impractical to obtain the required approvals to lease or otherwise use the lands. As a result, highly-fractionated tracts lie idle, unable to be used for any economical or beneficial purpose or for direct use by tribal communities for their members. Continue reading

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