CNN

The Onondaga Nation is set to regain more than 1,000 acres of ancestral land in central New York in what the Department of the Interior calls ‘one of the largest returns of land to an Indigenous nation by any state. “.

“This historic agreement represents a unique opportunity to return traditional lands to Indigenous peoples to steward for the benefit of their community,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release Wednesday.

“We look forward to leveraging the Onondaga Nation’s Indigenous expertise and knowledge to help manage the area’s valuable wildlife and habitat. In keeping with the President’s America the Beautiful initiative, we all have a role to play in this administration’s work to ensure that our conservation efforts are locally led and support the health and well-being of communities.

The land transfer includes the headwaters of Onondaga Creek, more than 45 acres of wetlands and floodplains, and about 980 acres of forests and fields, the Interior Department says. The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including brook trout in the creek, great blue heron, songbirds, waterfowl, hawks, bald eagles, frogs, bats, and white-tailed deer .

Onondaga Nation Chief Tadodaho Sidney Hill welcomed the significant land restitution.

“It is with great joy that the Onondaga Nation welcomes the return of the first substantial acreage of their ancestral lands,” Hill said in the statement. “The Nation can now renew its stewardship obligations to restore these lands and waters and preserve them for future generations to come.”

“The Nation hopes that this cooperative government-to-government effort will be another step in healing between them and all others who live in this area, which has been the homeland of the Onondaga Nation since the dawn of time,” Hill continued. .

The land was previously owned by Honeywell, which was ordered to surrender title and full ownership of the property to the Onondaga Nation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State Department of Environmental Conservation. New York in connection with a settlement reached over the contamination of Honeywell. of the environment.

For years, Honeywell contaminated Lake Onondaga, parts of its tributaries and surrounding wetlands with mercury and other hazardous substances, according to a 2017 statement from the Department of Justice. A 2018 settlement under the Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) program required Honeywell to surrender the land to the Onondaga Nation and implement 18 restoration projects on the affected lands, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Honeywell, which operated several manufacturing plants in Onondaga County, is currently working on many of these restoration programs, including grassland restoration, wetland habitat preservation, and improving public services such as hiking trails and a public boat launch, the Interior Department says.

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