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Proposed Rule

Indian Trust Management Reform

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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, Office of the Secretary, Interior.

ACTION:

Notice of reopening of comment period for proposed rule.

SUMMARY:

On August 8, 2006, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of the Secretary proposed to amend several of their regulations related to Indian trust management (see 71 FR 45173). The purpose of the amendments is to further fulfill the Secretary's fiduciary responsibilities to federally recognized tribes and individual Indians and to meet the Indian trust management policies in the Start Printed Page 64182Indian Land Consolidation Act (ILCA), as amended by the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004 (AIPRA). These amendments address Indian trust management issues in the areas of probate, probate hearings and appeals, tribal probate codes, life estates and future interests in Indian land, the Indian land title of record, and conveyances of trust or restricted land. There is also an “Application for Consolidation by Sale” form that is associated with one of these amendments.

This notice reopens the comment period for an additional 60 days to January 2, 2007. The BIA and Office of Secretary are reopening the comment period for an additional 60 days to ensure that all interested parties, including tribes and individual Indians, have the opportunity to review the proposed rule and prepare their comments.

DATES:

The comment period for the proposed rule published on August 8, 2006 (71 FR 45173) is extended to January 2, 2007.

ADDRESSES:

You may submit comments, identified by the number 1076-AE59, by any of the following methods:

Federal rulemaking portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

—Web site at www.doitrustregs.com.

E-mail: Michele_F_Singer@ios.doi.gov. Include the number 1076-AE59 in the subject line of the message.

Fax: (202) 208-5320. Include the number 1076-AE59 in the subject line of the message.

Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, NW., Mail Stop 4141, Washington, DC 20240.

Hand delivery: Michele Singer, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240.

Comments on the information collection burdens, including comments on or requests for copies of the “Application for Consolidation by Sale” form, are separate from those on the substance of the rule. Send comments on the information collection burdens to: Interior Desk Officer 1076-AE59, Office of Management and Budget, e-mail: oira_docket@omb.eop.gov; or 202/395-6566 (fax). Please also send a copy of your comments to BIA at the location specified under the heading ADDRESSES.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Michele Singer, Counselor to the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, NW., Mail Stop 4141, Washington, DC 20240, telephone (202) 273-4680.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

In developing the final rule, the Department will consider all comments received before January 2, 2007. Therefore, if you submitted comments at any time before January 2, 2007, you do not need to resubmit them.

In addition to making plain language revisions, the amendments revise the regulations to:

  • Incorporate AIPRA changes to probate: AIPRA created a uniform probate code to standardize intestate succession rules for trust and restricted property. The uniform probate code reinforces tribal sovereignty by eliminating the application of state laws in the probate of trust and restricted assets while deferring to approved tribal probate codes. AIPRA also established new mechanisms for consolidating fractionated interests at probate and through sale of highly fractionated tracts. The proposed amendments to probate regulations would implement AIPRA's provisions by requiring the additional information needed to determine heirs and devisees to be included in the probate file, and by establishing the procedures for directional disclaimers, purchases at probate and consolidation agreements. These regulations continue to refer all probate cases to OHA. The amendments streamline the OHA process by shortening deadlines to more reasonable time periods. Amendments to life estate provisions reflect AIPRA's change in the valuation of a life estate to be “without regard to waste” and base the valuation on the four-year average Single Life Factor used by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in Table S of the 7520 rate schedule, without regard to gender.
  • Promote consolidation (reduce fractionation) of interests: Allotments owned by Indians have become increasingly fractionated with the probate of each generation, resulting in the division of the allotment into smaller and smaller interests. These amendments meet the policy expressed by Congress to reduce fractionation (i.e., the exponential increase in the number of ownership interests in a given parcel of land) of tribal and individual Indian interests in trust and restricted property through the use of several tools. These tools include the opportunities for tribes to establish a tribal land consolidation plan; purchase interests in land within their respective jurisdictions when offered for negotiated sale, gift, or exchange; make a tribal tract purchase (i.e., obtain fractionated interests of non-consenting trust and restricted owners under certain circumstances); and unify ownership and consolidate interests in a tract through partition. The amendments allow both tribes and individual Indians to obtain highly fractionated interests through a new mechanism, created by AIPRA: consolidation by sale (called “partition of highly fractionated lands” in AIPRA). Additionally, the new AIPRA mechanisms being incorporated in probate regulations will offer opportunities to reduce fractionation through the distribution of probate property.
  • Improve service to beneficiaries: Amendments to the Land Titles and Records Office (LTRO) regulations will update and standardize LTRO title practices and recordation to ensure the Secretary is able to accurately track and record accounting of trust and restricted interest owners, allowing the Secretary to better serve the beneficiaries. Amendments to the probate process are aimed at facilitating the process to reduce the probate backlog and better serve beneficiaries. By clarifying the requirements and processes for probate, approval of tribal probate codes, obtaining LTRO services and products, and conveying trust and restricted property, the Department of the Interior improves communication and transparency, allowing better service to beneficiaries.
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Authority: Regulatory amendments to these parts are proposed under the general authority of the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994, 25 U.S.C. 4021 et seq., and the Indian Land Consolidation Act of 2000, as amended by the American Indian Probate Reform Act of 2004, 25 U.S.C. 2201 et seq.

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Dated: October 13, 2006.

Michael D. Olsen,

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs.

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[FR Doc. E6-18396 Filed 10-31-06; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4310-W7-P