legislative file photo

North Dakota lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ease exchanges of land and minerals between North Dakota and the federal government.

The North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act would allow North Dakota to relinquish state-owned lands and minerals within tribal reservations or the Little Missouri National Grasslands to the U.S. Department of the Interior in exchange for federal land and minerals of equal value in the state.

North Dakota has 130,000 acres of minerals and more than 31,000 surface acres within tribal reservations alone, which it is largely unable to develop.

The fragmentation that causes is limiting North Dakota’s ability to generate revenue from the land and minerals it owns.

Under the legislation, valuations would follow uniform appraisal standards. Valid existing rights would be respected, and the bill does not affect any Indian treaty rights.

The legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer. Rep. Kelly Armstrong is carrying a companion bill in the House.

“Federal, state and tribal land and mineral rights have long been intermixed. This has created duplicative layers of regulation, prevented North Dakota from developing the energy resources it owns and limited the state’s ability to generate revenue for education and other purposes,” Sen. Hoeven said. “Our legislation helps ensure North Dakota can access the full land and mineral rights it was promised, while restoring tribal ownership over lands and minerals within reservations and enhancing conservation efforts on the National Grasslands.”

Cramer said the bill will be helpful to everyone concerned.

“The federal government’s ownership of small tracts of land and minerals throughout North Dakota makes our energy development challenging. We are changing this with our bill, which authorizes land transfers and therefore eliminates unnecessary levels of regulation,” said Senator Cramer. “Our legislation ensures North Dakota can better access our natural resources, helps industry permitting efficiency, and increases revenues to the state and its education trust funds, while restoring tribal ownership and conservation of lands we have no intent to develop.”

Armstrong, meanwhile, said the legislation reduces duplication.

“The comingling of federal, state, and tribal lands has long prevented North Dakota’s resources from being fully utilized,” said Congressman Armstrong. “Our bill will give the state of North Dakota and the tribes more control over lands within their jurisdiction, which will reduce the amount of duplicative regulations and benefit people across our state.”

Department of Trust Lands Commissioner Jodi Smith praised the legislation.

“The North Dakota Board of University and School Lands is grateful to the North Dakota delegation for their support of our effort to pass an act that will authorize the State of North Dakota to relinquish land grant parcels located within the reservations and the Little Missouri National Grasslands and to select other Federal land or minerals in lieu of those parcels the State of North Dakota attained at statehood. This effort will provide the Tribes greater Tribal sovereignty and control of land and minerals within the reservations. Additionally, this act will provide for greater conservation and preservation of the Little Missouri National Grasslands. This effort is a win-win solution for the State of North Dakota, the Tribes, and conservationist groups,” said Jodi Smith, North Dakota Department of Trust Lands Commissioner.

Commissioner Mark Fox was also complimentary.

“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.”

Load comments