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Schumer Criticizes Lame Duck Agency For Its Backdoor Deal That Put 18 Acres of Federal Land into Trust Without Public Notice or Review

Following Joint Delegation Letter to Secretary Kempthorne, Schumer Places Personal Call to Express Outrage, Demand No Further Action on Remaining 490-plus Acres

Schumer: Enough Is Enough. No More Midnight Deals That Give Away Public Land Without Notice, Input And Review.

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced he personally called U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Kempthorne to condemn the agency’s decision to place 18 acres of land in Verona, NY into trust for the benefit of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York, and demanded assurances that the agency not move forward with taking any more land; Schumer further demanded immediate notification of any further plans. Schumer said that Secretary Kempthorne told him that the agency would contact him and the delegation in advance of any further action on any potential land transfers.


Schumer asserted to Secretary Kempthorne that if he was notified of plans to move forward with taking more land into trust, he would immediately fight the agency’s proposal.


“I made it clear to Secretary Kempthorne, in no uncertain terms, that the Department of Interior's recent action on this 18-acre parcel were flatly unacceptable. I also made it clear that I -- and the community -- expect to receive very advanced warning if there are any similar actions in the pipeline, because we are foursquare opposed to this process. If they keep their word, we are not going to be surprised like this again,” Schumer said.


On December 30, 2008, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) took 18 acres of land in Verona, NY, into trust for the benefit of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York without notification or a public-comment process. The 18 acres of trust is part of a 513-acre parcel of land that was used as a testing site for Griffiss Air Force Base.


Schumer has fought to defer final action on the 13,000 land trust application from the Oneida Indian Nation so as to make sure the DOI addresses the concerns of the local communities affected by land trust decisions – including lack of clarity on applicability of federal regulations on environmental and development issues – and include crucial tax and financial provisions in their final decisions to ensure the counties’ and towns’ local economies don’t suffer.  Schumer believes that the Nation, the State and local communities should negotiate a resolution that is acceptable to all parties, rather than having the BIA make a unilateral decision. Several court cases challenging the land trust decision are currently pending.


Schumer said that the DOI’s surprise December decision to take the 18 acres of land into trust flew in the face of an open, public process that would address community concerns.


Schumer immediately addressed the issue with a personal call to Secretary Kempthorne and a joint delegation letter urging the Secretary to make no further attempt to take the rest of the 513 acres of land and to immediately inform Senator Schumer if the agency plans to take any further action.


“Secretary Kempthorne listened to my concerns and told me that he would notify me if any further action was going to be taken. If that happens, I will fight tooth and nail to stop it,” Schumer said.


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