In recognition of the massive loss of Indian territory since the European “discovery” of America, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 provides a process whereby Indian tribes can expand their reservations by applying to have additional land placed into trust for their benefit. This process, known as the fee-to-trust process, is the subject of fervent opposition by many affected communities because once taken into trust for a tribe, such land is no longer subject to state and local taxation or zoning, planning, and other regulatory controls.
Accordingly, this Comment explores the efficacy of the fee-to-trust process by analyzing the Pacific Region Bureau of Indian Affairs decisions on proposed trust acquisitions from 2001 through 2011. Supported by this data, which shows a 100% acceptance rate, this Comment ultimately concludes that the process is shockingly biased and toothless—merely an exercise in extreme rubber-stamping. Thus, there is great need for comprehensive reform of the fee-to-trust process, including the creation of a meaningful role in the process for affected communities, establishment of clear and specific standards for acceptance of land into trust, and an emphasis on collaborative solutions.