Legislation would improve access to state-owned minerals

Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Congressman Kelly Armstrong this week introduced the North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act, bicameral legislation to authorize the State of North Dakota to relinquish state-owned lands and minerals contained within tribal reservations and the Little Missouri National Grasslands to the U.S. Department of the Interior and, in exchange, receive federal land and minerals of equal value within North Dakota.

Currently, North Dakota holds more than 130,000 acres of minerals and over 31,000 surface acres within tribal reservations alone, which are largely unavailable for development. At the same time, existing federal laws do not adequately allow for the state and federal government to exchange land and minerals.

This leaves surface and mineral rights within the National Grasslands and tribal reservations fragmented, while limiting the state’s ability to generate revenue from the land and minerals it owns, according to information from the congressional delegation. The North Dakota Lands Trust Completion Act would resolve this issue by allowing equal value transactions between North Dakota and the Interior Department to exchange land and mineral rights, thereby:

Enabling North Dakota to access the lands and minerals that were promised upon statehood to fund education and other public purposes.

Providing tribes greater ownership over the lands within their reservation boundaries.

-Helping ensure future conservation of the National Grasslands.

“We were glad to help shape how the draft bill would restore some reservation land previously taken from us,” said Mark Fox, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. “We support its introduction and look forward to working closely with our congressional delegation and the Congress to ensure the preservation of our treaty rights to land and minerals on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.”

Valuations conducted under the legislation would be determined by Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions and the Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practice. Valid existing rights would be respected in these transactions and there would be no impact on any Indian treaty rights.


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