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Crow Tribe of Montana

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The tribe plans to crack down on "fronters," tribal members who lease reservation lands for non-tribal members, as part of an effort to regain control of nearly 450,000 acres. The fronters help white ranchers and farmers lease reservation lands at reduced rates, said Kelly Passes, of the tribe's Land Use Office. "We do not have any mass plans for lease cancellations unless we can prove that tribal members are fronting for non-tribal ranchers. Eventually some of the non-tribal members will lose their leases. Some won't. The land is ours and we're finally deciding that we're going to use it." An estimated 90 percent of the tribe's 2.4 million-acre reservation is leased or owned by non-tribal members, he said. "More tribal members should be using their own land for their own profit." Crow who bid on leases for the tribe's trust land will be required to prove they will use the land for their own farm or ranch operations and will have to show proof of having their own livestock and machinery. During one recent bidding session, a tribal member was spotted outside the building, accepting envelopes from seven non-tribal ranchers, Passes said. Another known "fronter" got $36,000 without ever working the land, Passes said.