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Shelly Gives Final OK to Land Buy-Back

Shelly Gives Final OK to Land Buy-Back
April 19
06:49 2015
Prez Shelly  mpr SMALL

President Ben Shelly

By John Christian Hopkins

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly gave final approval for the cooperative agreement for the Land Buy-Back Program for Indian Nations during a signing ceremony at the Office of the President and Vice President this week.

“The U.S. Department of Interior is encouraging tribal nations to implement the land consolidation provisions of the Cobell settlement,” Shelly said.

There is $1.9 billion available for the Trust Land Consolidation Fund to purchase fractional land interests across the Navajo Nation. The headquarters for the Navajo Nation Land Buy-Back Program is in Crownpoint and satellite offices are located in Farmington, Gallup and Winslow, Ariz.

Swift action to implement the program was necessary because state and private interests are attempting to allow federal land studies, Shelly said. Those studies would undoubtedly focus on allotted lands for privatization to create taxes and other purposes, he said.

During the recent legislative session, state legislators entertained the creation of the N.M. Federal Land Management Commission to study state lands.

“We cannot let this happen. By signing this agreement into law, I am ensuring we address these allotment lands before private interests do,” Shelly said

The signing was the result of planning and coordination with the Navajo Nation and Department of Interior since 2013, Shelly said.

Joining Shelly at the signing were Sharon Pinto, director of the Navajo Region of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Larry Rogers, chairman of the Eastern Navajo Land Commission.

The BIA and Interior Department are excited the Navajo Nation has taken a strong interest in the program, according to Pinto.

“We’re excited we’ll continue to provide the support that the Nation needs moving forward, as far as infrastructure, office facilities and anything else the Nation needs to implement the program,” Pinto said.

She noted the program is on the fast track, with a one-year period. With the agreement signed, the next step is to hire new staff and implement the program.

“Appraisals will be issued sometime in November for the various tracts of various areas,” Pinto said.

Rogers said the ENLC has worked cooperatively with the Navajo Nation over the past year to prepare plans for the new program.

“We need to educate the landowners. They need to be well informed on the options they have. In the very end, it’s up to them,” Rogers said.

One of the main tasks of the ENLC is to regain lands in the eastern agency to minimize the checkerboard effect by transforming more lands to tribal trust for Navajo communities to use, Rogers explained.

“In the end, land consolidation is very important. We appreciate your help,” he added.

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