Notice & Comment

DOI Seeks Comment on Proposal to Remove Alaska Exception to Land Trusts, by Shannon Allen

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) proposes a rule that would remove a provision in the Department of Interior’s (“DOI’s”) “land-into-trust regulations” that excludes “land acquisitions in trust” in Alaska “from the scope of the regulations. . . . .”

Section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”), allows the Secretary of the Interior (“Secretary”) “to acquire land in trust for individual Indians and Indian tribes in the continental United States and Alaska.” 25 U.S.C. 465; 25 U.S.C. 473a.  The DOI’s rules which regulate the procedures for “taking land into trust,” have, for several decades, provided that the rules in part 151 “do not cover the acquisition of land in trust status” in the State of Alaska, “except acquisitions for the Metlakatla Indian Community of the Annette Island Reserve or its members” (the “Alaska Exception”). 25 CFR 151.1.  Acquiring “land in trust is one of the most significant functions” that the DOI “undertakes on behalf of Indian tribes.”  Removing the Alaska Exception would allow applications for “land to be taken into trust in Alaska” to move forward under part 151, on a case-by-case basis while maintaining the DOI’s “usual discretion to grant or deny land-into-trust applications.”

The DOI’s proposal would remove the Alaska Exception because placing land into trust: secures tribal homelands; advances economic development; promotes the health and welfare of tribal communities; helps to protect tribal culture and traditional ways of life; is important to tribal self-governance by providing a physical space where tribal governments may exercise sovereign powers to provide for their citizens; and supports the Federal trust responsibility to Indian nations because it supports the ability of tribal governments to provide for their people, thus making them more self-sufficient.

Further, the DOI believes that the removal of the Alaska Exception would “resolve any uncertainty” with regard to the DOI’s “regulatory authority” toacquire land into trust in Alaska as it would permit the “submission and review of applications.”  The DOI understands that this proposal requires special attention to the “unique aspects” of Native Alaska Villages and Native land tenure in Alaska (e.g. ownership and governance of land by Regional and Village Corporations).  Thus, prior to “applying . . . part 151” processes in Alaska, the DOI intends to participate in additional “government-to-government” conversations on how these “procedures are best applied in Alaska.”  And the DOI seeks comment on these issues as part of this rule making.”

Interested parties are encouraged to submit comments by June 30, 2014 by any of the following methods:

  • Federal rulemaking portal: The rule is listed under the agency name “Bureau of Indian Affairs.” The rule has been assigned Docket ID: BIA-2014-0002;
  • Email: Include the number 1076-AF23 in the subject line of the message;
  • Mail: Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240. Include the number 1076-AF23 in the submission; or Hand delivery: Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240. Include the number 1076-AF23 in the submission.

NOTE: Comments on the information collections contained in this proposed regulation are separate from those on the substance of the rule. Comments on the information collection burden should be received by June 2, 2014 to ensure consideration, but must be received no later than June 30, 2014 and submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Fax: to OMB by facsimile to (202) 395-5806 or
  • Email: to the OMB Desk Officer for the Department of the Interior at:

This post was originally published on the legacy ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Notice and Comment blog, which merged with the Yale Journal on Regulation Notice and Comment blog in 2015.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email