Press Releases

Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.), along with Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), introduced bipartisan legislation to allow Tribal governments to participate in an existing program that allows the Bureau of Land Management to sell and lease certain public lands below market value if those lands will be used for recreational or public purposes. This program currently allows for state and local governments to participate, but Tribal governments have been unfairly excluded from the program. The bill would correct this inequity and ensure Tribal governments enjoy the same opportunities for land acquisition as state and local governments—a much needed effort to address longstanding barriers for Tribal governments. 

“Tribal governments shouldn’t have been excluded from purchasing or leasing Bureau of Land Management land,” said Senator Feinstein. “Our bill provides a long-overdue fix to this mistake. It provides parity between Tribal governments and state and local governments when it comes to accessing these public lands.” 

“As our nation works to strengthen Tribal sovereignty and self-determination, we must ensure parity in how our laws treat Tribal governments,” said Senator Padilla. “It’s long past time we fix this omission and allow Tribal governments to have the same opportunities to access and purchase public lands as state and local governments. I look forward to working with my colleagues to enact this commonsense bill as quickly as possible.” 

“The Recreation and Public Purposes Act was codified into law nearly a century ago. At the time, Congress did not consider whether Tribal governments would be interested in developing land for recreation or for public services, similar to the way that State and local governments do. By fixing this oversight, this bill can help reduce the Federal government’s oversized land ownership footprint and develop land for a beneficial purpose,” said Congressman LaMalfa. 

“Susanville Indian Rancheria applauds Senator Padilla for introducing this common-sense fix to the Recreation and Public Purposes Act.  Tribal Nations have been inadvertently left out of this program for almost a century and we are glad to finally see legislation establishing parity.  Since the original passage of the R&PP, Congress has continually acknowledged and strengthened tribal sovereignty and self-determination.  Tribes should be afforded the same opportunity to buy and lease public lands for public and recreational purposes as state and local governments and non-profit organizations,” said Arian Hart, Tribal Chairman, Susanville Indian Rancheria.

Background: 

  • The Recreation and Public Purposes Act (R&PP) authorizes the Bureau of Land Management to sell or lease public lands for recreational or public purposes to state and local governments and to qualifying non-profit organizations, often at a large discount from the fair market value. The land can be used as historic monument sites, campgrounds, schools, firehouses, law enforcement facilities, courthouses, health facilities, social service facilities, hospitals, parks, and fairgrounds. 
  • Tribal governments were omitted when the Recreation and Public Purposes Act first became law in 1926. The omission leaves Tribal governments without the same opportunities as other governments to use public lands for these beneficial purposes. 
  • Because the Act allows for the transfer and lease of public lands at prices far below fair market value, the State, local, and nonprofit entities that receive the lands must agree to always use them for public purposes – any revenue collected by state and local governments on lands from R&PP must specifically be used on those lands. The BLM retains reversionary interest in the lands to enforce these terms. 

This bill is supported by The National Congress of American Indians and the Northern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association (which includes Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria, Big Lagoon Rancheria, Blue Lake Rancheria, Elk Valley Rancheria, Hoopa Valley Tribe, Karuk Tribe, Pitt River Tribe, Quartz Valley Indian Reservation, Redding Rancheria, Resighini Rancheria, Susanville Rancheria, Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation, Trinidad Rancheria and the Wiyot Tribe). 

Full text of the bill is available here.

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