Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



The Obama Administration enacted significant reforms to the regulatory rules governing federal leasing and right of way approvals across tribal lands in Parts 162 and 169 of the Indian title of the federal regulations. These reforms had many aims. They sought to improve the environment for economic development on Indian reservations by speeding regulatory approvals, increasing predictability (by, in part, narrowing agency discretion), and increasing deference to tribal governmental decisions. The reforms sought to help tribal governments capture economic value that had previously been denied them, for example, by preventing so called "piggybacking" on pre-existing rights of way and clarifying the rules of taxation related to economic activity. On the other hand, the reforms also sought to assure greater deference to tribal decisions, even when tribal governments act for non-economic purposes. For example, the agency will now defer to decisions to lease land for less than fair market value if a tribal government wishes for approval for other reasons. This descriptive work, prepared for a Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation conference in 2017, details these regulatory reforms.

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White Paper



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