Tribes may soon approve own land leases

A bill giving Native American tribes authority over agreements to lease their lands for development awaits the president's signature.

Supporters say the legislation, called the HEARTH Act, will hasten housing construction, clean energy and business or industry development on tribal lands. It allows tribes to approve their own land leasing agreements rather than the Bureau of Indian Affairs, if they choose. The Navajo Nation already has this sort of authority.

The Interior Secretary still must approve the tribes' leasing regulations. The bill does not apply to oil and gas leases. The administration issued new leasing regulations last November that set deadlines for approval of leases to end long delays.

The House approved the bill in May. The Senate approved it Tuesday by voice vote. The president's signature would make it law.