By Michael Amato, Staffer
The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation crafted by Congressman Adam Smith to support local tribes as they work to expand their business and create jobs. The bill (S. 2906), which will streamline the land leasing process and remove a significant bureaucratic burden for Washington State tribes, will now be sent to the President for his signature. S. 2906, the Senate version of H.R. 4401 introduced by Adam Smith, was sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell and passed by the Senate in September.
“The passage of this legislation is a big victory for our local tribes as well as our local economy,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “Tribal businesses are a critical economic engine in our region and our state. In the current economic climate it is vitally important that we do everything we can to encourage economic growth and job creation. This legislation will help do just that.”
“Passage of this legislation will provide excellent opportunities for the Puyallup Tribe to ignite its economic development,” said Herman Dillon, Sr. Chairman Puyallup Tribe of Indians. “In these down economic times, this legislation will help accelerate leasing opportunities with national and global partners. It will eliminate the risk of losing opportunities due to the lengthy approval process currently in place. It will not only benefit the Puyallup Tribe, but the Puget Sound region as well.”
“The Puyallup Tribe of Indians is a valuable partner in our community’s cultural and economic vitality,” said John Wolfe, the Port of Tacoma’s chief executive officer. “We support these efforts to help the Tribe engage more readily in business opportunities that create jobs now and for future generations. The Puyallup Tribe would like to give special thanks to Congressman Adam Smith, Senator Maria Cantwell, Congressmen Norm Dicks, and Senator Murray for all their support and hard work in making this happen.”
The legislation will amend the tribal Long-Term Leasing Act to expand the ability of the Puyallup, Swinomish and Kalispell Tribes’ authority to lease tribally owned land, particularly for economic development initiatives. Specifically, S. 2906 will allow the Puyallup and Kalispel Tribes to enter into 99 year leases of land, and also removes the requirement that the Puyallup, Kalispell, and Swinomish Tribes seek the approval of the Department of the Interior for every business deal involving tribal lands.
Currently, the Puyallup and Kalispel cannot enter into business leases longer than 25 years, and each of these three Washington state tribes cannot enter into any lease without the approval of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). This legislation would remove the requirement that the tribe seek the approval of the BIA for every lease it enters into once they adopt leasing regulations approved by The U.S. Department of the Interior. Once those regulations are in place the tribe would be able to enter in lease agreements lasting up to 75 years. Any lease longer than that would still be subject to the review of the BIA.