U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited Montana today, with a stop in Browning, where she announced that the Blackfeet Nation will soon begin participating in the $1.9 billion Indian Land buy-back program.
That program was launched when the federal government settled a lawsuit brought by Blackfeet tribal member Eloise Cobell in 2010. The suit demanded compensation for past mismanagement of Indian property held in trust by the government. Part of that compensation is being given as payments to allow tribes to consolidate small land holdings.
"We hope we can spend $100 million here, in taking these fractionated bits and pieces of ownership, so that it can be in the hands of the Blackfeet Nation. So you can do things with those lands that right now nobody can do anything with, because the ownership is so fragmented."
The Interior secretary also spoke in favor of permanently re-authorizing the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund uses offshore oil and gas drilling revenue to protect public lands. The Senate has passed reauthorization as part of a bigger energy bill, but the House has yet to act on it.