“This action by the President is a long awaited victory for tribes, tribal housing programs and tribal economic development across Indian country,” said Gov. Mendoza. “I’m very proud of the Community’s efforts to help secure passage of this very important piece of legislation, which will have a significant positive impact on our community for generations to come.”
The HEARTH Act removes regulatory hurdles to permit tribes to enter into certain surface land leases without prior consent of the federal government. In doing so, the law promotes self- determination by providing tribes the opportunity to handle their own long-term land leasing, expand housing opportunities for tribal members and facilitate economic development on tribal lands.
The current regulatory system requires any encumbrance of tribal land, such as a lease or sublease, to be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in a process that can take up to two years. This antiquated process has long stymied self-determination and precluded many tribes from making the most productive use of tribal lands for housing and economic development. Although tribes seeking to utilize the HEARTH Act’s revamped regulatory structure will first need to submit land leasing regulations to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for approval, such federal approval will allow surface land leases and subleases to be approved dramatically quicker than under the current system.
“I would like to thank Congressman Martin Heinrich of New Mexico for introducing and guiding this legislation in the House of Representatives,” said Gov. Mendoza. “I also applaud Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for securing the Senate’s passage of the HEARTH Act by unanimous consent. Today’s signing of this landmark piece of legislation signifies a victory for tribal nations that will go far to protect sovereignty, build homes, and create jobs across Indian country.”