Tribal members, staff partner on Lands Acquisition Team

The Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council and the Department of Natural Resources’ Lands Division have been working diligently on land consolidation and fee-to-trust priorities.

In December 2012, the Tribal Council envisioned the development of a team of tribal members and staff that could review proposed land acquisitions. After several meetings to discuss the vision of the Lands Acquisition Team, the Tribal Council requested the Lands Division post a notice in the Drum asking interested tribal members to volunteer to participate.

The Lands Division and Tribal Council identified nine values related to land consolidation: resource, business, cultural, wildlife, economic, overall membership benefit, uniqueness of property, proximity to other tribal lands, and residential potential.

The LAT would assist staff in developing recommendations on acquiring fee or allotted land for the benefit of the tribe and its members; determining whether acquired lands would be placed into trust status; reviewing historical acquisitions to determine when and if it’s appropriate to proceed with the fee-to-trust process; reviewing current land-consolidation processes and procedures for changes or revisions; and identifying potential uses for and management of historical and new acquisitions.

The department also provided recommendations for staff to serve as team members. It suggested Leonora Burch and Germaine Ewing from Lands, Gary Whalen from Tierra Group, Kyle Siesser from the Department of Energy, and James Washinawatok from the Legal Department. Joining them would be volunteer tribal members Evelyn Russell, Clement Frost, Rudley Weaver and Daniel Weaver.

The department proposed annual terms for team members and that a letter from the tribal chairman be sent to selected volunteers confirming their intent to participate.

During a work session on April 29 of this year, the Lands Division and Tribal Council discussed the Redding Ranch property, which the tribe acquired in 2005 and which includes approximately 2,000 of acres of land, a home and a shop. The council asked to review the goals and objectives of the LAT and possibly choose a team leader before the LAT hosted its first meeting.

“The Redding Ranch property, along with the goals and objectives, will be the first items we’ll be covering at our first meeting,” said Germaine Ewing, Lands Division head.

Councilman Aaron V. Torres requested a team member write meeting minutes so recommendations to the council could be reviewed ahead of time and discussed thoroughly.

“It would be a good idea for a tribal ranger to attend the LAT meetings,” Rudley Weaver said. “They could be kept abreast of what’s going and what the recommendations are going to be.”

For more information about the Lands Acquisition Team, call the Lands Division at 970-563-0100 or visit

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