Schumer urges flat out rejection by BIA

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he has personally called Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior David Hayes, urging the rejection of the Cayuga Indian Nation’s plan to take 125 acres of land intro trust in Seneca and Cayuga counties. During the call, Schumer said that the FEIS made only minor changes from the draft, released last year, and made none of the changes that community groups, local leaders and Schumer demanded. Schumer said that the analysis in the draft EIS was largely dismissive of concerns of residents and, specifically, still failed to take into account the massive negative economic impact and many collateral consequences of taking land into trust, in this particular area. In concert with the broad consensus of local residents, elected leaders and community organizations, Schumer has long expressed his deep opposition to this application and is urging the Bureau of Indian Affairs to now reject it. Hayes said he would review Schumer’s concern.Deputy Secretary Hayes is an official in the Department of Interior who holds significant sway in matters concerning land into trust. Schumer has also conveyed his opposition to the application to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Bureau of Indian Affairs Head Larry Echo Hawk. “This Final Environmental Impact Statement does virtually nothing to integrate the legitimate concerns of the surrounding community, and I’ve conveyed that to Mr. Hayes,” said Schumer. “The Department of Indian Affairs ignored community concerns and has thumbed their nose at residents of the Finger Lakes. Issuing a final impact statement while ignoring their multiple and justified concerns is simply absurd and the application must now be rejected.”Following a Cayuga Indian Nation request that 129 acres of land be put into a tax-exempt federal trust, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) last year issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that concluded there would be little or no negative impact, environmental or otherwise, from putting the land into trust. The DOI’s Final Environmental Impact Study was the next step, and Schumer and many representatives of local communities said the federal agency has not done enough to address the concerns and answer the questions of residents in Cayuga and Seneca Counties. There was – and remains – an especially glaring lack of clarify on the effect on local businesses, payment of taxes on non-trust land and the applicability of federal environmental and other regulatory regimes on trust land and the unequal playing fields that result from these different regimes.Schumer said that the changes made the to the DEIS were far too narrow, and the application must now be rejected once and for all.Schumer has time and again stated his preference for a negotiated settlement between the Counties and the Tribe, as opposed to a federally imposed decision. He urged the BIA to reject taking land into trust and instead to facilitate a settlement between the Tribe and the Counties. Schumer said his position on the land-into-trust process has long been clear. He is skeptical of its suitability where a significant portion of the community is opposed to it, where it undermines rather than bolsters local government resources, and where it leads to unwanted, biased competition rather than holistic economic advancement for the broader community and region.Schumer also submitted a formal written statement during last month’s comment period.

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