Land lease rule changes could speed development

By SUZANNE GAMBOA

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Interior Department says it is close to finalizing land lease regulations that will speed up economic development on tribal lands.

The new regulations mark the first changes in a half-century to the rules tribes must follow to develop land held in federal trust. Current rules require department approval to build homes or undertake other development. That process sometimes took years.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the agency believes American Indian tribes should exercise greater control over their land. The rules also set deadlines for approval of leases.

Obama signed a bill in July giving tribes authority to approve leases on their land if their leasing regulations comply with the agency's new leasing rules. The rules are final 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, likely to happen soon.

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