The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has announced a major reform of federal surface leasing regulations for American Indian lands that the DOI says will streamline the approval process for renewable energy development in Indian Country.
The proposed rule would modify regulations governing the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) process for approving the lease of surface acres on lands the federal government holds in trust for tribes and individuals. As trustee, the DOI is responsible for managing approximately 56 million surface acres in Indian Country.
The proposed reform identifies specific processes, with enforceable timelines, through which the BIA must review leases. The regulation establishes separate, simplified processes for residential, business and renewable energy development, so that, for example, a lease for a single-family home is distinguished from a large solar energy project.
The proposed rule provides a 30-day limit for the BIA to issue decisions on residential leases, subleases and mortgages. For commercial or industrial development, the BIA would have 60 days to review leases and subleases. If the BIA does not complete its review of subleases within this time frame, those agreements will automatically go into effect.
"The proposed regulation incorporates numerous changes requested by tribal leaders during extensive consultations this past year and better meets the goals of facilitating and expediting the leasing process for trust lands," says Principal Deputy Assistant for Indian Affairs Del Laverdure.