CSAC Bulletin Article

Housing, Land Use and Transportation 07/16/2010

CSAC Helping To Develop Comprehensive Fee Land Into Trust Reform

CSAC, working with a coalition of three other state associations representing New York, Idaho, and Wisconsin counties, has been diligently working to develop a proposal for comprehensive fee land into trust reform at the federal level. While this issue has been on the agenda for local governments around the country for decades, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar(129 S.Ct. 1058 (2009)), which cast significant doubt on the scope of authority of the Secretary of the Interior to acquire land in trust for certain tribes, i.e., those tribes that were not recognized as of 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed, has presented counties with a rare window of opportunity to achieve much needed reform in this area. 

CSAC has identified problems counties face with the fee land into trust process and filed extensive comments reflective of adopted CSAC policy in our federal advocacy efforts. From the perspective of state and local governments, the process now amounts to a practically unchallengeable federal decision that takes land out of local, county and state jurisdiction, with state and local governments receiving little notice, having no meaningful role in the process, and no means for mitigation related to loss of a tax base and/or impacts from future development on trust lands, while often burdened with the responsibility for increased service demands and costs associated with the development on trust lands. 

The coalition’s draft comprehensive reform proposal would address changes to both the trust land process and regulatory standards the Secretary of the DOI uses to make trust land decisions including providing the state and local governments adequate notice of all partial or complete applications to have land acquired in trust provided by the Building Industry Association, providing the Secretary and the tribe an option on how to proceed to achieve approval of the trust land application depending on the intended use for the land in the application, and providing important incentives for tribes and governments to work together to constructively address, in advance of trust application submittal, jurisdictional conflicts and environmental impacts.

Supervisor Mike McGowan, CSAC Second Vice-President and Chair of the CSAC Indian Gaming Working Group heads to the NACo Annual Meeting this week to continue these efforts by seeking permanent NACo platform changes in support of these important reform proposals and expand the coalition to other interested States.

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