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The Acquisition of Easements over Native American Lands For Transportation Project

This section contains the investigative questions for this research project as revised based on input from our stakeholder team. These questions provide the overall framework for the research and establish the underlying basis for questions included in the survey instruments, and various interview guides utilized throughout the project effort.

The investigative questions include the following three categories:

The subsections below describe these groupings of investigative questions in further detail.

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A. Acquisition Foundation

When dealing with Native American lands, it is important to recognize and understand the significance of each Tribe's sovereignty. Tribal land holdings, especially those lands within a reservation or allotted lands held by individuals, are unique, based on Federal law. Therefore, the research questions in this regard revolve around understanding how reservation lands were established and how that ownership influences the transfer process necessary to convey a highway easement. Key questions include:

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B. Operational Considerations

While acquisition of highway right-of-way is a universally understood process among State Departments of Transportation, the process for obtaining land from Native American reservations or other trust lands is not. Most of the larger reservations and land holdings exist in the western United States and in Alaska. This research project sought to identify those States with the highest incidence of highway easements involving Native American lands. The research effort also desired to identify and assess where States have established procedures to facilitate the coordination process needed to secure highway easements. Key operational questions include:

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C. Stakeholder Perceptions

The research team developed a number of questions directed towards obtaining the perceptions of various stakeholders about the process for acquiring easements over Native American lands for transportation projects. These stakeholders include the FHWA division realty officers and the States they support, the FLH staff responsible for implementing the Indian Reservation Roads program, the BIA, and the various Tribes.

1. FHWA Division Realty Officers' Perspective

A critical component of the research was FHWA division realty officers' perceptions, and by extension, the perceptions of the State Departments of Transportation they work with, about the effectiveness of the Native Lands easement process. Some of the key questions in this regard included:

2. FLH Perspective

FLH has the responsibility for implementing the Indian Reservation Roads (IRR) program in conjunction with BIA. As such, FLH has extensive experience working with Tribal leaders, which could potentially complement this research. Questions surrounding FLH operations included:

3. BIA Perspective

Within the Federal government, the BIA is the primary agency responsible for working with the Tribes and providing the actual conveyance of highway easements for lands held in trust for Native Americans. Key questions for BIA staff included:

4. Tribal Perspective

Key investigative questions from the Tribal perspective included the following:

Updated: 04/02/2013
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