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Accessing Indian Lands For Oil and Gas Development

Peter J. Hack, Constance J. Rogers, Surface Use for Mineral Development in the New West: Finding Good Ground

Because of the often complex ownership status of Indian lands and the always complex nature of Indian law, oil and gas development on these lands frequently requires authorization from multiple entities in order to access the targeted resource.1 These complexities present industry actors working in Indian Country with unique challenges. There is another side to those challenges, however, because development in Indian Country can also present unique opportunities. In an era where regulation of Federal lands is increasingly burdensome, Indian tribes now have authority to simplify regulatory complexities on Indian lands.

This paper presents an overview of access issues confronted by oil and gas developers operating on Indian lands, highlighting challenges and special opportunities that are unique to Indian lands. The following section provides an overview of the Indian law framework necessary to understand the various types of Indian land tenure. The next section describes the statutory and regulatory requirements for gaining access to Indian lands and minerals. The fourth section discusses recent Congressional action regarding rights of way and valuation in Indian Country and offers three proposals for structuring negotiated solutions to access issues.

II. General Legal Principles and Land Tenure in Indian Country.

A. Reservations, Indian Country and Re