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Acquisition of Title to Land in Trust

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Start Preamble

AGENCY:

Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior.

ACTION:

Withdrawal of final rule.

SUMMARY:

This action withdraws the final rule published in the Federal Register on January 16, 2001, entitled “Acquisition of Title to Land in Trust.”

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DATES:

The Acquisition to Title to Land in Trust rule, amending 25 CFR part 151, published in the Federal Register on January 16, 2001 (66 FR 3452), delayed by a document published February 5, 2001 (66 FR 8899), corrected by documents published February 20, 2001 (66 FR 10815) and June 13, 2001 (66 FR 31976), delayed by documents published April 16, 2001 (66 FR 19403) and August 13, 2001 (66 FR 42415), is withdrawn as of November 9, 2001.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Larry E. Scrivner, Deputy Director, Office of Trust Responsibilities, MS 4513 MIB, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240; telephone 202/208-5831.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

This action withdraws in whole the rule entitled “Acquisition of Title to Land in Trust,” published in the Federal Register on January 16, 2001, at 66 FR 3452, delayed by a notice published February 5, 2001 (66 FR 8899), corrected by notices published February 20, 2001 (66 FR 10815) and June 13, 2001 (66 FR 31976), delayed by notices published April 16, 2001 (66 FR 19403) and August 13, 2001 (66 FR 42415), and which received further comments through a notice published on August 13, 2001 (66 FR 42474).

On August 13, 2001, the Department of the Interior (Department) requested public comment on whether the final rule entitled “Acquisition of Title to Land in Trust” should be withdrawn and a further rule proposed to better address the public's continued concerns regarding the Department's procedures for taking land into trust for federally-recognized Indian tribes. The comment period closed on September 12, 2001, and the Department received a total of 139 submissions. Of the submissions received, 93 were from Indian tribes, 18 were from state and local governments and federally elected officials, and 28 other interested groups and individuals.

In its August 13, 2001, notice, the Department requested comments on specific areas of concern in the final rule. These areas of concern included individual applications for land into trust for housing or home site purposes; the requirement of land use plans for off-reservation acquisitions and as part of the designation of a Tribal Land Acquisition Area (TLAA); clarifying the standards contained in the final rule; the availability of applications for review and the use of technology to facilitate review of trust acquisition applications. Collectively, the comments received contained various opposing views about the identified issues of concern. For example, comments stated that the Department should withdraw the final rule in whole, withdraw the final rule in part, amend the final rule to include certain provisions, or make the final rule effective immediately.

The Department sought comments about prioritizing individual applications for land into trust for housing or home site purposes under a new proposed rule expediting applications containing five (5) acres of land or less for individual housing needs. Comments were received both supporting the individual applications for Indian housing priority and opposing the individual applications for Indian housing priority. Comments also noted that identifying housing or home site applications as acquisitions containing five (5) acres of land or less for the purpose of meeting individual housing needs was of little benefit to tribal housing issues/needs. Another area the Department sought comments on was the advisability of requiring tribes to submit land use plans for off-reservation acquisitions and for the designation of TLAA. The Department considered requiring that tribes submit land use plans for off-reservation acquisitions and requiring that the applications contain a land use plan for the TLAAs, which the Secretary would approve as part of her review and approval. Comments received opposed the requirement for submission of a land use plan in an application for off-reservation acquisitions noting that the final rule already requires the submission of enormous amounts of information concerning the use of the land. Comments, while not specifically solicited, strongly opposed the establishment of TLAAs.

The Department also solicited comments on clarifying the standards that will be used by the Secretary to determine whether to approve an application and defining the burdens of proof required for the applicant and those opposing a trust application. The Department noted in its proposed withdrawal notice that it was considering new regulatory language that for on-reservation acquisitions, a tribe or individual must show by substantial evidence that the acquisition facilitates tribal self-determination, economic development, Indian housing, land consolidation, or natural resource protection. The Department further considered requiring that opponents of on-reservation trust acquisitions show by clear evidence that the acquisition will result in severe negative impact to the environment or severe harm to the local government. For off-reservation acquisitions, the Department considered requiring that tribes show by substantial evidence that the acquisition is necessary to facilitate tribal self-determination, economic development, Indian housing, land consolidation, or natural resources protection, and the tribe be further required to show that no demonstrable harm to the local community is realized. The Department also considered requiring that opponents of off-reservation acquisitions show by clear evidence that the acquisitions will result in significant harm to the local community or severe negative impacts to the environment. Some commenters indicated confusion or lack of understanding of the criteria set out in the final rule. Comments received stated that the standards were not fair in that the “substantial evidence” burden of proof for the applicant is a lesser standard than the “clear evidence” requirement for the opponent of the application. Comments also stated that the existing standards are fair and provide sufficient criteria for a decision and need not be further amended. Additional comments stated that standards were burdensome and could not be met by an applicant.

In addition, comments were requested addressing the time-frames established for comment by the state and local communities and the uses of computer technology. Comments were split on the amount of time to allow for review, some commenters stating that the final rule allowed sufficient time to review applications and other requesting even more time than the additional 30 days the final rule allowed to review applications. Comments addressing the use of computer technology and the Internet were generally in support of using such tools to expedite review of applications and the decision-making process.

The Department finds that it is impracticable and inefficient to repeal only part of the final rule as the Bureau of Indian Affairs needs clear direction and standards to process land into trust applications. Considering the variety of comments received, the Department has decided to withdraw the final rule in whole to address these specific areas of concern in a new rule. Consistent with Departmental policy to consult with federally-recognized Indian tribes on proposed Federal actions that impact Indian tribes, the Department will conduct consultation with Indian tribes on the following areas in its efforts to promulgate a new rule: applications for housing or home site purposes to meet individual housing needs; the requirement of land use plans; the standards of review used in reaching a determination of whether to accept land Start Printed Page 56610into trust; the availability of applications for review; and the use of computer technology prior to the proposal of a new Acquisition of Title to Land in Trust rule.

The Department has determined that the withdrawal of the final rule entitled “Acquisition to Title to Land in Trust” must be effective immediately in order to prevent its becoming effective upon the expiration of the notice of delay as published on August 13, 2001, (66 FR 42415), and to allow for the current 25 CFR Part 151 to remain in effect during the pendency of the development of a new rulemaking addressing this matter. The Department, therefore, shows good cause for the immediate effective date of this rule in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(d).

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Dated: November 5, 2001.

Neal A. McCaleb,

Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

[FR Doc. 01-28222 Filed 11-8-01; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4310-02-P