Flathead Reservation in next phase of $1.9B land buy-back program

 

Elouise Cobell, right, looks on as Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes testifies in December 2009 during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. EVAN VUCCI/Associated Press

Elouise Cobell, right, looks on as Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes testifies in December 2009 during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C.
EVAN VUCCI/Associated Press

HELENA – The Flathead Reservation is among 21 Indian reservations that will be the focus of the next phase of a $1.9 billion program to buy fractionated land parcels owned by multiple individuals and turn them over to tribal governments, Interior Department officials said Thursday.

Besides the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, other Montana participants are the Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation; Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation; Crow Tribe; and the Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation of Montana.

Government officials will work with tribal leaders to plan, map, conduct mineral evaluations, make appraisals and acquire land on the reservations from Washington state to Oklahoma in this phase, which is expected to last through 2015.

Other reservations could be added to the list, but the 21 named Thursday meet the criteria, particularly tribal readiness, said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn.

“We knew it wouldn’t be successful unless tribal leaders were interested in the program,” Washburn said.

The land buyback program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Elouise Cobell of Browning, who died in 2011. The lawsuit claimed Interior Department officials mismanaged trust money held by the government for hundreds of thousands of Indian landowners.

The 1887 Dawes Act split tribal lands into individual allotments that were inherited by multiple heirs with each passing generation, resulting in some parcels across the nation being owned by dozens, hundreds or even thousands of individual Indians.

Often, that land sits without being developed or leased because approval is required from all the owners.

The land buyback program aims to consolidate as many parcels as possible by spending $1.9 billion by a 2022 deadline to purchase land from willing owners, then turn over that purchased land to the tribes to do as they see fit.

So far, the program has spent $61.2 million and restored 175,000 acres, said Interior Deputy Secretary Mike Connor. To buy even that much land, officials had to locate and contact owners in all 50 states and several countries to find out if they were willing to sell, Connor said.

The work primarily has been focused on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation until now.

Last month, tribal leaders from four reservations criticized the buyback program’s slow pace and complained they were being shut out of decisions over what land to buy. The leaders from tribes in Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington state spoke before a U.S. House panel.

Rep. Steve Daines, R-Montana, who called for the congressional hearing, said he welcomed Thursday’s announcement by the Interior Department.

“However, I am concerned their efforts here may not provide tribes with the necessary tools to ensure the Land Buy-Back program is properly implemented,” Daines said in a statement.

He said the Interior Department should use its authority to give tribes more flexibility, and it should move swiftly to address consolidation problems on other reservations not included in the announcement.

Washburn said Thursday that his agency has entered into or is negotiating cooperative agreements with many tribes in the buyback program, though others say they want the federal government to run the program.


21 reservations next up in consolidation program

These are the American Indian reservations the Department of Interior plans to focus on in the next phase of a $1.9 billion buyback program of fractionated land parcels to turn over to tribal governments. The program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement over mismanaged money held in trust by the U.S. government for individual Indian landowners.

– Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana.

– Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of the Cheyenne River Reservation, Wyoming.

– Coeur D’Alene Tribe of the Coeur D’Alene Reservation, Idaho.

– Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Montana.

– Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Oregon.

– Crow Tribe, Montana.

– Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation of Montana.

– Gila River Indian Community of the Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona.

– Lummi Tribe of the Lummi Reservation, Washington.

– Makah Indian Tribe of the Makah Indian Reservation, Washington.

– Navajo Nation, Arizona.

– Northern Cheyenne Tribe of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Montana.

– Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota.

– Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, Kansas.

– Quapaw Tribe of Indians, Oklahoma.

– Quinault Tribe of the Quinault Reservation, Washington.

– Rosebud Sioux Tribe of the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota.

– Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation, North Dakota and South Dakota.

– Squaxin Island Tribe of the Squaxin Island Reservation, Washington.

– Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota and South Dakota.

– Swinomish Indians of the Swinomish Reservation, Washington.

Tests due to see if birth control shots will work in feral dogs on Indian reservations

Tests due to see if birth control shots will work in feral dogs on Indian reservations

Tests due to see if birth control shots will work in feral dogs on Indian reservations

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A decade ago, the Rosebud Sioux Indians in South Dakota were paying people to catch and shoot wild dogs. Dogs that weren’t caught were covered in mange and parasites. Some froze. Some starved. In packs, they survived be eating each other. And dog bites were 20 times worse than the national average.

Because animals are such an important part of Indian history and culture, tribal leaders called spay and neuter expert Ruth Steinberger. In the next eight years, they worked together to sterilize 7,000 dogs, moving 1,500 of them to other parts of the country for adoption.

Many U.S. tribes still rely on roundups to manage dog overpopulation, but two tribes in the West are going to take part in an experiment this fall using shots of a different kind.

Veterinarians plan to catch and inject 300 wild female dogs with a birth control vaccine that has worked on white-tailed deer, wild horses, wallabies and ferrets.

The two-year test using the government vaccine GonaCon is scheduled to begin in September on two isolated Indian reservations in the West, said Steinberger, the project manager. Reservation officials asked not to be identified until the study is further along.

The $60,000 contraceptive study will be conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Wildlife Research Center and Spay First, Steinberger’s Oklahoma-based organization working to reduce dog overpopulation in chronically poor places around the world.

Right now, the dogs are getting scraps from people who don’t want to see them die — but the litters keep coming.

Steinberger, 56, said she learned a long time ago she could do more to help animals by preventing litters rather than rescuing them. Her work at Rosebud is generally considered a textbook example for ending overpopulation.

“The reservation is a better place. … This is easier to explain in Lakota than in English, but dogs are a part of our lives. They have been in the past and they will be in the future. To be able to take care of them is so important,” explained Belva Black Lance, a Rosebud Sioux community advocate who helps with the dog program.

In the GonaCon test, dogs will be caught, microchipped, tattooed, collared, injected and released, she said.

After a year, researchers will round up as many as they can and do blood tests to measure reaction to the vaccine, Steinberger said.

The hardest part of the study might be that roundup, said Dr. Jeffrey Young, founder of Planned Pethood Plus, another group working globally to end animal overpopulation. He is not involved in the study, but has worked with Steinberger on other projects and is familiar with government-made GonaCon.

“A lot of the animals will die, disappear, get shot, poisoned or hit by a car,” he explained.

“Dogs on reservations have a higher death rate than normal dogs in society,” he said, noting that wild dogs in poor areas live an average 3.2 years. The average American dog lives 10 to 12 years, varying by breed and size.

Depending on who’s counting, there are more than half a billion feral dogs around the world, Steinberger and Young said.

There are an estimated 6 million feral dogs in the United States, Steinberger added.

Tens of thousands of people die of rabies in developing nations each year — and 95 percent of the cases are caused by dog bites, she said.

Spay and neuter surgeries are out of the question in such regions so researchers have been looking for a fast, effective and humane vaccine. The perfect blend would be a combination of sterilization and rabies vaccines, Young said.

“It would be a major game changer,” Young said. Rabies kills up to 40,000 people a year in India alone.

If he had his way, Young would forego the tests. “It’s been tested. They need to get it out there. It should be spread around like candy in India and Mexico,” he said.

GonaCon has worked as long as six years in some of the wild animals tested. Booster shots were given to others to extend sterilization, Steinberger said.

It was never tested on a large number of dogs because no one stepped up to foot the bill.

Petco Foundation donated about half the money for the study.

“Animals are the reason Petco is in business. We are always looking for ways to make their lives better and help with the tragedy of overpopulation,” said foundation executive director Paul Jolly.

Steinberger brought together the tribes, researchers, donors and volunteers.

GonaCon can’t be used on domestic pets, Steinberger emphasized. The Food and Drug Administration would require about a decade of testing and that would cost between $16 million and $20 million, Young said.

Young, who operates a low-cost clinic in Denver, has performed over 165,000 (mostly spay and neuter) surgeries, more than anyone else on the planet, he said.

“I would love for something to put me out of that business,” he said.

___

Online:

— www.spayfirst.org

— http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/nwrc/about/about.shtml

— www.plannedpethoodplus.com

Washburn Proposes Changes to Land-into-Trust Procedures to Achieve Greater Transparency, Clarity and Certainty for Tribes

Proposal Released for Public Review and Comment for 60 days
 
WASHINGTON – Today, Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn issued for public comment a proposed rule designed to demonstrate the Administration’s commitment to restoring tribal homelands and furthering economic development on Indian reservations.  The proposed rule will provide for greater notice of land-into-trust decisions and clarify the mechanisms for judicial review depending on whether the land is taken into trust by the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, or by an official of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  During the public comment window, Indian Affairs will also conduct tribal consultation.
 
For the Bureau of Indian Affairs trust acquisition decisions, which are generally for non-gaming purposes and constitute the vast majority of land-into-trust decisions, the proposed rule will ensure that parties have adequate notice of the action and clarifies the requirement that exhaustion of administrative remedies within the Department is necessary to seek judicial review. 
 
“The principal purpose of this proposed rule is to provide greater certainty to tribes in their ability to develop lands acquired in trust for purposes such as housing, schools and economic development,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn. “For such acquisitions, the proposed rule will create a ‘speak now or forever hold your peace moment’ in the land-into-trust process.  If parties do not appeal the decision within the administrative appeal period, tribes will have the peace of mind to begin development without fear that the decision will be later overturned.” 
 
For decisions made by the Assistant Secretary, which generally are for gaming or other complex acquisitions, the proposed rule clarifies that the Assistant Secretary’s decision is a final decision and allows the Assistant Secretary to proceed with taking the land-into-trust with no waiting period.  Because a simple change in ownership status itself is not an act that causes irreparable harm in many cases, it will place the burden on litigants to come forth and demonstrate such harm if they wish to prevent the trust acquisition from occurring, while not affecting the right to judicial review of the basic decision. 
 
The proposed rule issued today would also effectively repeal a 1996 procedural provision by omitting a 30-day waiting period which, as a result of a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision, now is unnecessary. 
 
In 1996, the Department revised its land-into-trust regulations in Part 151 by establishing a 30-day waiting period following publication of a Departmental determination to take land into trust for an Indian tribe.  At that time, prevailing federal court decisions held that the Quiet Title Act (QTA), 28 U.S.C. 2409a, precluded judicial review of such determinations after the United States acquired title to the land in trust.  The waiting period was intended to ensure that interested parties had the opportunity to seek judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. 704) before the Secretary acquired title to land in trust.  See 61 FR 18082 (Apr. 24, 1996). 
 
The legal landscape changed, however, on June 18, 2012, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak, 132 S. Ct. 2199 (2012).  In that decision, the Supreme Court held that the Quiet Title Act does not bar Administrative Procedure Act challenges to the Department’s determination to take land in trust even after the United States acquires title to the property, unless the aggrieved party asserts an ownership interest in the land as the basis for the challenge.  Following Patchak, the 1996 procedural rule establishing a 30-day waiting period before taking land into trust to allow for Administrative Procedure Act review is no longer needed.  Unless judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act is precluded on some other basis, such as standing, timeliness, or a failure to exhaust administrative remedies, judicial review of the Secretary’s decision is available under the Administrative Procedure Act even after the Secretary has acquired title to the property.
 
The proposed rule will be available in the federal register at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection.  Public comments may be submitted to the Department for sixty days following the proposed rule’s publication in the Federal Register.  Tribal Consultation on the proposed rule will occur on June 24, 2013, in Reno, Nevada.