Hoeven Statement on Corps' Transfer of Public Land to Interior Department in Trust for Tribe

WASHINGTON -- Senator John Hoeven today issued the following statement after his office was informed that the Army Corps of Engineers has transferred lands around Lake Sakakawea to be held in trust by the Department of Interior for the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation:

“We are concerned that the Corps and Department of the Interior did not have agreements in place to protect access and all beneficial uses around the lake before transferring public land to the Interior Department in trust for the Three Affiliated Tribes. We have been very clear that access agreements should be in place before any transfer occurs. In fact, the last time the Corps took public comments and held public meetings in North Dakota regarding the transfer was a decade ago. There were significant concerns about the plan then, including concerns raised by every member of North Dakota’s congressional delegation and governor, and there continue to be concerns about the transfer now, which I along with Congressman Kevin Cramer and Governor Jack Dalrymple expressed again to the Corps, most recently in April of this year. Despite these concerns, however, the Corps has proceeded with the transfer.

“We have made it clear to both the Corps and the Interior Department that they need to address the access concerns of local stakeholders, and that if they don’t, we will pursue legislation, either through the authorization or appropriations process, to compel them to do so. Specifically, we must have assurances that North Dakota citizens, including landowners who currently have lake access, will continue to have public access to the lake without charges or fees if the land is transferred. This is an important concern that has been raised again and again by landowners, sportsmen, county commissions, North Dakota Game and Fish officials, law enforcement and cabin owners, all of whom have an interest in a resource that North Dakotans, including tribal members, have enjoyed for decades.”