The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BI A) has finalized a rule under which agency approval will no longer be needed for certain tribal land leases. BI A indicates that the changes are intended to streamline leases for wind power, reduce delays and increase tribal autonomy over lands held in trust for them. The U.S. Department of Interior holds and manages about 56-million acres in trust for Indian tribes and individual Indians. The rule will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Agricultural lease rules remain essentially unchanged, but new provisions have been created for business, Wind Energy Evaluation Leases (WEEL s) and Wind and Solar Resource (WSR ) Leases, and the old section for non-agricultural leases has been deleted, as the newer rules cover those leases. BI A expressly intended the changes for WEEL and SWR activities to expedite and simplify renewable energy development on tribal lands. The rule clarifies that permits for use of Indian land do not require BI A approval and therefore do not fall under National Environmental Policy Act (NE PA) or Endangered Species Act requirements. It also requires BI A to accept Indian judgment as to the appropriate value for leases and to accept Indian NE PA analyses, where they are required.