Hoeven Introduces ND University & School Lands Commissioner at Senate ENR Committee Hearing

Commissioner Testifies in Support of ND Delegation Bill to Enable Greater Development of State-Owned Lands & Minerals

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven this week introduced North Dakota Commissioner of University and School Lands Joseph Heringer at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing, where the commissioner testified in favor of the North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act, bicameral legislation that Hoeven is sponsoring with Senator Kevin Cramer and Congressman Kelly Armstrong to better enable the development of state-owned lands and minerals. Specifically, the bill would authorize the State of North Dakota to relinquish state-owned lands and minerals contained within the Tribal Reservations to the U.S. Department of the Interior to be held in trust for the tribes and, in exchange, receive federal land and minerals of equal value within North Dakota, thereby:

  • Enabling the state to access the lands and minerals that were promised upon statehood to fund education and other public purposes.
  • Providing tribes greater ownership over the lands within their reservation boundaries.

“Our legislation is a win for North Dakota and the tribes within our state as well,” said Hoeven. “I appreciate Commissioner Heringer for taking the initiative to testify before Congress on behalf of this bill, as well as his diligent work to enable our state and the tribes to make the best use of their lands and minerals to the benefit of educators and local residents.” 

“Thank you to the North Dakota delegation for their instrumental work in helping to move this important bill forward,” said Heringer. “The North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act would enable North Dakota and the Department of the Interior to exchange lands for two mutually-beneficial purposes. First, it provides North Dakota with more productive and easily accessible land for increased revenue to support education, and second, helping North Dakota tribal nations to further consolidate lands within their reservations, so they can manage and develop the land as they see fit.”

Currently, North Dakota holds more than 130,000 acres of minerals and over 31,000 surface acres within Tribal Reservations alone, which are largely unavailable for development. At the same time, existing federal laws do not adequately allow for the state and federal government to exchange land and minerals. This leaves surface and mineral rights within the Tribal Reservations fragmented, while limiting the state’s ability to generate revenue from the land and minerals it owns. The North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act would resolve this issue by allowing equal value transactions between North Dakota and the Interior Department to exchange land and mineral rights.

Valuations conducted under this legislation would be determined by Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions and the Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practice. Valid existing rights will be respected in these transactions and there will be no impact on any Indian treaty rights. The full text and a summary of the legislation can be found here and here, respectively.