BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Right now, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are considering an idea that would allow North Dakota to trade land with tribal members.
It’s called the North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act of 2023. It seeks to give state-owned land on reservations to the Department of the Interior in exchange for federally owned land or mineral rights in certain parts of North Dakota.
Right now, Joseph Heringer, the commissioner for the North Dakota Department of Trust Lands says the state owns over 31,000 acres on tribal reservations, most of which can’t be developed under state law.
That includes 23,462 acres on Standing Rock; 2,838 acres on Fort Berthold; and 5,283 acres on the Spirit Lake reservation.
If approved, the Interior Department would hold the land in trust for the tribes to use as they see fit.
“The tribes are going to win because they can receive more lands or more ownership of land within their reservations, so they can really consolidate ownership of land with their reservations, which is what they want,” Heringer said. “It’s a win for the state because we can receive more productive lands and maybe even some mineral rights that we talked about that weren’t being properly developed by the federal government because of red tape.”
Right now, that bill remains in committee in the Senate.
Heringer expects the Senate to vote on it sometime this fall, after which the House would have to approve it as well.