Hoeven Secures Senate ENR Committee Approval of North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act

ND Delegation Introduced Legislation at North Dakota’s Request to Better Develop State-Owned Lands & Minerals, Support Tribal Development on Lands within Reservations

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that he has secured approval by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee of the North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act, bicameral legislation he introduced with Senator Kevin Cramer and Congressman Kelly Armstrong at the State of North Dakota’s request to enable greater 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 and, in exchange, receive federal land and minerals of equal value within North Dakota. The legislation now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

“State-owned lands and minerals are an important source of revenue for our schools, roads and a wide variety of other important priorities in North Dakota,” said Hoeven, a member of the Senate ENR Committee. “Because a large portion of this acreage falls within the Tribal Reservations, they remain unavailable for development, hampering our state’s ability to utilize these resources to benefit taxpayers and improve our quality of life. The legislation I’m sponsoring with the North Dakota delegation would help resolve this issue through equal-value exchanges, enabling tribes to reclaim ownership of lands and minerals within their borders, while empowering states to generate greater revenues through land and energy development.”

“We are excited to have successfully completed this next step in the process towards promoting more productive management of North Dakota’s trust lands and want to thank Senators Hoeven and Cramer and Congressman Armstrong for their support and hard work on behalf of North Dakota citizens. We look forward to continuing to work with our full congressional delegation to get this bill across the finish line in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives,” said North Dakota Trust Lands Commissioner Joseph Heringer.

“We are pleased that Senator Hoeven persuaded his colleagues on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to favorably report S. 1088, the North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act of 2023,” said Mark Fox, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. “We look forward to working closely with our congressional delegation and the Congress to pass S. 1088 and help implement our treaty rights and recover lands and protect minerals on our Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.”

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, thereby:

  • Enabling North Dakota 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.

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.