Trust Lands an Easier Target for Tribes

By: Gabriela Rios | Law Clerk | gabriela.rios@procopio.com
Theodore J. Griswold | Partner | ted.griswold@procopio.com

This week, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) announced a proposed change to the fee-to-trust acquisition process. Title Evidence for Trust Land Acquisitions, 81 Fed. Reg. 10,477 (Mar. 1, 2016).  The current rule requires that an applicant provide title evidence meeting the Standards for the Preparation of Title Evidence in Land Acquisition by the United States (issued by the Department of Justice). These more stringent requirements can significantly delay or in some situations foreclose the possibility of putting land into trust. The new rule is meant to provide a “more targeted evidence standard” and should provide more certainty for tribes in the fee-to-trust application process.

Proposed to be effective April 15, 2016, applicants seeking to put land into trust will only be required to provide: (1) evidence that the applicant has ownership, or will have ownership, of title and how title was acquired, as well as either (1) a current titled insurance commitment; or (2) the policy of title insurance issued at the time of the applicant’s or current owner’s acquisition of the interest and abstract dating from the time the interest was acquired. This rule will apply to new trust applicants and pending applications where a Preliminary Title Opinion has not yet been prepared by the Office of the Solicitor as of the effective date. Comments on the rule change will be accepted until March 31, 2016.

Gabriela is a citizen of the Cahuilla Band of Indians and currently clerking for Procopio. She graduated from the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in 2015 and is awaiting July bar results.

Ted Griswold

Ted is head of the Native American Law practice group and primary editor for the Blogging Circle. Connect with Ted at ted.griswold@procopio.com and 619.515.3277.