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U.S., Seminole Tribe approve land leasing regulations

Tribe can now lease reservation lands without approval from Washington

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell signed off Thursday on the Seminole Tribe of Florida's request to control its future.

The HEARTH (Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership) Act empowers Native American tribes to lease their reservation lands without approval from Washington, a move that paves the way for home ownership and new business creation.

"When a Seminole asked for a piece of land to live on, once the tribe passed a resolution saying, 'Yes, they can have that land,' it still had to go to Washington to the department to verify we did the right thing, that we weren't lying or anything, so this consolidates that part," Seminole Tribe of Florida chairman James Billie told Local 10 News.

The leasing restrictions imposed on Native American tribes dates to the 1950s and was designed to protect tribes from those who were taking advantage of poorly educated and less business-savvy tribal councils.

The Seminoles are the 15th Native American tribe to be granted this property right by demonstrating its ability to manage its land responsibly and within federal guidelines.

"The tribe has demonstrated that it is ready to do that, to do the appropriate environmental analysis and that type of thing to move forward, and so they now control that part of their future and we don't, which is great," Jewell told Local 10.

Billie wouldn't say what the tribe intends to do with the land, but Jewell indicated there may be some renewable energy project in the works.

Follow Roger Lohse on Twitter @RogerLohse

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10