Tester reintroduces bipartisan legislation to restore tribal lands

Clean Carcieri fix bill will end the unequal treatment of tribes

(U.S. SENATE)-Senator Jon Tester today reaffirmed his commitment to Indian Country by reintroducing a bipartisan bill that reaffirms the long-standing policy of restoring tribal homelands and allows tribes to determine how to use their own land to create jobs and increase economic development.

Tester’s bill amends the Indian Reorganization Act to provide the Interior Department the authority to take land into trust for all tribes – reversing the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar.

In 2009, the Supreme Court issued a decision that prevents the Interior Department from taking land into trust for tribes recognized after 1934 – the year the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted. The Supreme Court decision created two classes of tribes, those recognized before and after 1934. This decision has caused major delays and unnecessary costs for tribes in their efforts to put tribal lands into trust.

“This bipartisan bill was built with tribal input and eliminates unnecessary hurdles for tribes to increase economic development opportunities,” Tester said. “The court decision had a negative impact on tribes across the nation by causing costly litigation and harmful delays in critical infrastructure development. This solution addresses one of Indian Country’s top priorities and is a strong step forward to fulfilling the federal government’s treaty and trust responsibilities.”

The Carcieri decision has significantly impacted all tribes’ ability to restore tribal land base for economic and infrastructure development by delaying application processing, allowing costly litigation, and creating uncertainty for tribal governments.

Tester, vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, first introduced this legislation last Congress. It passed unanimously out of committee.

Tester’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Moran (R-Kan.), Franken (D-Minn.), Heinrich (D-N.M), Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Murray (D-Wash.), Stabenow (Mich.), and Udall (D-N.M).