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The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has finalized regulations designed to streamline the leasing process for development on tribal lands, including for renewable energy projects.

The DOI consulted with American Indian tribes and considered public comment when developing the regulations, which the agency says overhaul antiquated rules governing the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) process for approving the surface leases on lands the federal government holds in trust for American Indian tribes and individuals.

The DOI says the new rule complements and helps to implement the recently passed Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act, which allows federally recognized tribes to assume greater control of leasing on tribal lands.

The regulation also establishes separate, simplified processes for residential, business and renewable energy development, rather than using a one-size fits-all approach that treats a lease for a single-family home the same as a lease for a large wind energy project.

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 DOI says the new rule increases flexibility in compensations and land valuations, with the BIA deferring to the tribe’s negotiated value for a lease of tribal land, rather than requiring additional, costly appraisals. Other changes eliminate the requirement for the BIA approval of permits for certain short-term activities on Indian lands and require the BIA to approve leases unless it finds a compelling reason to disapprove.


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