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Extended Leases Open Doors to Economic Development for Five Oregon Tribes

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New federal legislation allows five Oregon tribes to lease their trust land for up to 99 years--a move that will drive long-term business and economic development.

The Register-Guard reports that previously five of the state’s nine federally recognized tribes had to renew leases every 25 years, as tribes cannot sell trust land. The 25-year leasing authority was in effect since 1955, hindering economic growth for many tribes, which entered business arrangements with companies that developed retail outlets or housing, amongst other things.

While several Oregon tribes acquired the 99-year leasing rights in the past through individual appeals to Congress, this bill grants authority across the board, reported theOregon Daily Emerald. Extending their leases will help tribes secure a return on their investments.

"This bill allows us to really get to the table and offer something to people interested in a joint venture," said Bob Garcia, chairman of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, which owns and operates the Three Rivers Casino in Florence, reported the Emerald.

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On Dec. 22, President Barack Obama approved the legislation sponsored by Oregon Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, paving the way to economic growth for the Klamath, the Coquille, the Paiute, the Siletz and the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Suislaw.

"This bill ensures that every tribe in Oregon has the same leasing ability and a level playing field," said Courtney Crowell, a spokesperson for Merkley, reported theEmerald. "These tribes had found it was difficult to attract large business investments as most wanted some guarantee they can operate beyond 25 years."

The Coquilles tribal attorney Brett Kenney told The Register-Guard that the 99-year lease bill gives investors "more security and lowers the cost of capital, and that’s a good thing for everyone.”