Interior Department officials have identified 21 American Indian reservations for the next phase of a $1.9 billion land-consolidation program.
The land buyback program is part of a $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Montana. It aims to buy fractionated land parcels across the nation that are owned by dozens, hundreds or even thousands of individual Indians and turn them over to the tribes by 2022.
So far, the program has focused primarily on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Interior officials said Thursday they are planning more appraisals, acquisitions and other land-consolidation activities at Pine Ridge and 20 additional reservations through 2015.
Cobell's lawsuit claimed Interior Department officials mismanaged trust money held by the government for hundreds of thousands of Indian landowners.
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