Economic opportunities bill for the Chehalis Tribe passes out of committee, moves to Senate

A bill introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that would add the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation to a list of Tribes authorized to hold leases of up to 99 years passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and will advance to the Senate floor. 

According to Cantwell, the bill — Senate Bill 3773 — would make a technical amendment to the Long-Term Leasing Act of 1955, which states that Tribes cannot lease out their land for more than 25 years (with one option to renew the lease for another 25 years). S. 3773 would extend that lease period to 99 years for the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation. Congress has granted similar authority to 59 other Tribes across the nation through comparable bills. 

During a meeting of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Cantwell urged her colleagues to support her legislation, which she introduced alongside Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced companion legislation in the House. 

“This will open the door to more economic opportunities for the Chehalis tribe. It will allow the Chehalis tribe to lease their trust lands for up to 99 years, which will help them attract businesses create jobs for tribal members in the surrounding community. The bill will provide the tribe with the necessary level of flexibility to help finance and encourage economic development projects,” Senator Cantwell said. 

“The Chehalis tribe, or I believe any other tribes, should not be hindered because of the 1955 bill that limits a Tribe’s ability to lease their land.” 

The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation are currently fielding multiple development proposals between Seattle and Portland to serve supply chain needs, but they cannot act on these proposals because the prospective lessees and their private financiers require lease terms of at least 50 years due to current market demands.

Allowing the Tribe to enter into longer leases on lands held in trust increases economic development opportunities and create more jobs for Tribal members and surrounding communities.

In 2010, a similar bill authored by Senator Cantwell extended lease limits for the Swinomish Reservation, the Kalispel Indian Reservation and trust lands, and the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. 

A video of Senator Cantwell’s remarks can be viewed HERE, audio HERE and a full transcript HERE.