A pair of lawmakers have introduced two bills designed to enhance Tribal management of public lands and improve the protection of sacred and cultural sites.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Land Act (H.R. 8108/S. 4421) and the Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act (H.R. 8109/S. 4423) in late June.

The Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Land Act is intended to address the fact that the primary federal land management laws were enacted with little thought or acknowledgment of the cultural and legal connections of Indian Tribes to these lands. While numerous federal laws require public land managers to consult with State and local governments, many of these requirements omit tribal governments.

The bill amends several major federal land management laws to:

  • improve protection to Native sacred places and tribal interests on federal lands, including prohibiting the sale of public land containing a tribal cultural site, where a tribal nation retains treaty or other reserved rights, or that contains a former reservation;
  • acknowledge tribal government connections to these lands, providing tribes with a right of first refusal if/when federal lands are listed for transfer or disposal;
  • increase consultation requirements with tribal governments before federal agency take action on federal lands;
  • include tribal representatives to federal lands advisory councils; and
  • update public land laws to include Indian Tribes where the law acknowledges participation by “state or local governments.”

The Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act would establish a national Tribal Cultural Areas System to be made up of culturally significant sites on public lands. The System would include lands with cultural values that would be managed to preserve cultural resources while allowing for traditional tribal cultural uses. The bill would empower Tribal nations to play a role in the management of tribal cultural areas.

Most notably, the bill would withdraw land within Tribal cultural areas from “location, entry, and patent under the mining laws; and operation of the mineral leasing, mineral materials, and geothermal leasing laws.”

ACRA’s Government Relations Committee is analyzing the two bills to assess their potential impact on CRM and the preservation of sacred and historic sites. If you have questions or comments on the bills, please send us an email.