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Interior Department Streamlines Tribal Land Buy-Back Program

The U.S. Department of the Interior is streamlining a program that consolidates privately owned tribal land with multiple owners. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the process called fractionation prevents home building and business creation on millions of acres. 

The federal government allotted land to tribal members in the 1800s. The parcels have been passed down through generations creating hundreds of owners. The voluntary Land Buy-Back Program uses $1.9 billion from a legal settlement to purchase the land allotments and turns ownership over to the tribes.

The Interior Department plans to speed up that process among 20 tribes by making mapping and appraisal information more available, and assisting with purchases.

Larry Rodgers is the executive director of the Eastern Navajo Land Commission.

"The Navajo Nation as a government gains more control of the land … local communities have a lot more to say as how some of those can be used … Better roads, more utility services and perhaps great chance for economic development," he says.

Rodgers says 155,000 acres have been consolidated on the Navajo Nation, and members have collectively received $108 million.

The Land Buy-Back Program ends in 2022. 

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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