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The HEARTH Act of 2012 – which stands for Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership – was purportedly designed to create a voluntary, alternative land leasing process for tribes. It amended the Indian Long-Term Leasing Act of 1955, 25 U.S.C. Sec. 415.

The HEARTH Act, the Secretary of the Interior can approve plans whereby tribes may negotiate and sign leases without further approvals by the Secretary. In particular, the HEARTH Act authorizes tribes to execute business and agricultural leases of tribal trust lands for an initial term of 25 years and then up to two renewal terms of 25 years each.

Leases of tribal trust lands for residential, educational, recreational, or religious purposes are allowed for an initial term of up to 75 years.

The HEARTH Act encourages tribal self-determination by requiring the Secretary to approve tribal leasing regulations, provided the regulations comport with the Department of the Interior’s leasing regulations at 25 CFR Part 162 and they provide for a compliant environmental review process. Tribes are encouraged to submit their regulations to the Deputy Bureau Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs-Office of Trust Services.