A fee to trust land acquisition, also known as “land into trust,” is the transfer of land title from an individual Indian or federally-recognized Tribe to the United States, in trust, for the benefit of that individual Indian or Tribe. 

Individual Indians or Tribes (as defined in 25 CFR 151.2) are eligible to apply for a trust land acquisition for any land owned in “fee simple” status. “Fee simple” status means the landowner may freely alienate or encumber the land (for example: selling, gifting, or leasing the land) without federal approval.

Fee to trust land acquisition applications are evaluated by the Secretary of the Interior according to criteria published in the Code of Federal Regulations (25 CFR 151).

What is Trust Land?

“Trust land” is land to which the title is held in trust by the United States on behalf of an individual American Indian or Tribe. Today there are over 56 million acres of land held in trust by the United States for the benefit of Tribal communities. 

Trust land is a legal status that grants certain benefits, protections, and limitations, including but not limited to:

  • Many programs and services offered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) are available on trust land.
  • Trust land is not subject to state or local taxes. However, Tribes may assess taxes on trust land for services they provide. 
  • Trust land cannot be alienated or encumbered (for example, sold, gifted, leased, etc.) without approval of the Secretary of the Interior. 

Placing land into trust is one of the most important functions of the BIA. Trust lands establish Tribal jurisdiction and strengthen Tribal sovereignty. 

What is Restricted Land?

“Restricted fee land,” also known as “restricted land,” is land to which the title is held by an individual Indian or Tribe (not by the United States), but that can only be alienated or encumbered (for example, sold, gifted, or leased) with approval by the Secretary of the Interior. 

Restricted fee lands are also considered “Indian Country,” and are eligible for many BIA programs and services.

Restricted fee lands may also become trust land through fee to trust land acquisition. 

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Division of Real Estate Services
1001 Indian School Road, NW, Box #44
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