ND Delegation Sponsoring Legislation to Enable Greater Development of State-Owned Lands & Minerals

Bill Would Allow Public Land and Mineral Rights Transfers between State, Tribes & Federal Government

WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Congressman Kelly Armstrong reintroduced the North Dakota Trust Lands Completion Act, bicameral legislation to 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. 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.

“Our legislation will empower North Dakota to better utilize its mineral rights and develop the energy resources within the state, generating revenue for education and other important priorities,” said Senator Hoeven. “As part of these equal-value exchanges, tribes will be able to regain the fragmented lands and minerals located within their reservations.” 

“Fragmented land ownership and mineral rights in North Dakota have hampered our state’s resource development for far too long,” said Senator Cramer. “Allowing the state to exchange land and minerals with the Department of the Interior and tribes is a common-sense solution to benefit all parties involved.”

“The comingling of federal, state, and tribal lands has long prevented North Dakota's resources from being fully utilized,” said Congressman Armstrong. “Our bill gives the state of North Dakota and tribes more control over lands within their jurisdiction. This will reduce the amount of duplicative regulations and benefit people across our state.”

“This legislation is a win / win as it will help the Land Board generate more revenue to support North Dakota K-12 public education, while also providing opportunities for North Dakota Indian tribes to further consolidate lands within their reservations. We are thankful to Senators Hoeven and Cramer, and Representative Armstrong, for their support and efforts in helping to achieve these important goals,”said North Dakota Trust Lands Commissioner Joseph Heringer.

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.