Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, announced that the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs unanimously passed his legislation H.R. 1158, the Montana Mineral Conveyance Act. Rehberg’s bill now head to the full Committee for a vote. This legislation authorizes the conveyance of mineral rights by the Secretary of the Interior in the State of Montana. It was the subject of a June 22 hearing.

“In Montana, natural resources mean jobs, so I’m proud of the fact that the House is doing its job to advance legislation that will facilitate environmentally responsible resource development,” said Rehberg, a member of the Congressional Native American Caucus. “Today’s unanimous approval of my bill reiterates the bipartisan support this legislation enjoys in both the House and the Senate. That’s simply because it’s the right thing to do. We’ll finally give the Northern Cheyenne control of their own resources and the associated revenue while creating good jobs for the people of Montana. ”

Rehberg’s legislation corrects a 111-year-old mistake of the federal government. In 1900, a surveying error left subsurface coal within the reservation under the control of the Northern Pacific Railway, which has since been passed onto Great Northern Properties (GNP). The Northern Cheyenne Tribe’s Otter Creek Settlement was reached nine years ago. The Tribe and GNP negotiated and executed an agreement that provides for relinquishment by GNP to the Tribe of approximately 8 sections (about 5,000 acres) of on-Reservation subsurface coal owned by GNP, in return for approximately 5,000 acres of off-Reservation federal coal located in Montana’s Bull Mountains and the Bridge Creek federal coal tracts. Rehberg’s bill would codify this agreement.

The collaborative legislation strikes a reasonable balance between all impacted parties. The Tribe regains subsurface control, which makes their land and resources contiguous and provides needed revenue. GNP receives subsurface access from two other areas in Montana currently owned by the federal government.