ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed a bill designed to expedite home building and energy development on tribal lands.
The law enables tribes to approve trust land leases directly, rather than waiting for approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Navajo Nation already has that authority.
The so-called HEARTH Act was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico. It's expected to open the door to badly needed housing development on reservations, as well as wind and solar energy projects that tribes have been eager to launch.
Land on American Indian reservations cannot be bought and sold because it's held in trust by the federal government. Previously, if a tribe or tribe member wanted to build a house or business, the Interior Department had to approve a "lease" of the land or mortgages. That process sometimes took years.