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Rights-of-Way Rule Provides Greater Jurisdictional Authority to Tribes

November 16, 2015

Rule Provides Greater Jurisdictional Authority to Tribes

The Department of the Interior announced a final rule (25 C.F.R. Part 169) at the White House Tribal Nations Conference that updates and streamlines the process of obtaining Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) grants of rights-of-way on Indian land. The rule recognizes that an important aspect of tribal sovereignty and self-governance is taxation. The new rule establishes timelines for BIA review of rights-of-way applications, clarifies the review process, addresses applicable law, jurisdiction, taxation, and BIA enforcement actions.

Section §169.009 in the rule clarifies that rights-of-way are not subject to state laws but are applicable to federal and tribal laws. Additionally, the rule states that permanent improvements and activities on right-of-way land may be subject to taxation by the Indian tribe but generally prohibits state and local taxation. The rule provides Indian tribes with the flexibility to determine which rights-of-way to grant, valuations and compensation, and identified enforcement provisions.

The rule goes into effect 30 days after publication to the federal register.

For questions or comments, please contact Jennifer Parisien at or (202) 558-8040.