January 23, 2020

Practice Tips: Licensing Tribal Trust Land Avoids Conveyance Issues and Bureaucracy

Andrew W. Baldwin and Kelly A. Rudd

Unique rules and considerations apply to properties within Indian Country. Tribes may own real property (1) in fee simple, (2) in trust, or (3) in “restricted” status (lands with specific restrictions against alienation). Trust and restricted lands are held by the United States for the benefit of the tribe, and federal statutes and regulations govern conveyances of such lands. For example, those lands may be leased (25 U.S.C. § 397), rights of way for railroads may be granted (25 U.S.C. § 312), rights of way for telephone lines may be authorized (25 U.S.C. § 319), public highways may be established (25 U.S.C. § 311), and other rights of way may be established (25 U.S.C. § 321). Regulations governing land conveyances are generally found in 25 C.F.R. Subchapter H (Land and Water) and Subchapter I (Energy and Minerals).

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