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Madison County: Trust decision imminent

The Bureau of Indian Affairs Friday released the Final Environmental Impact Statement of the Oneida Indian Nation's application to put 17,000-plus acres of land into federal trust. The BIA's recommendation to the Department of the Interior is that the Nation be granted 13,086 acres of trust land.

According to a press release from Madison County, the BIA is lead agency for the application and directed the preparation of the EIS in connection with its evaluation of the trust application using the services of an outside contractor paid for by the Oneida Indian Nation of New York.

The Federal Register announcement indicates that nine alternatives were evaluated, including Madison and Oneida counties' "Alternative H," which proposed allowing 1,030 acres be put into trust.

That 1,030 acres included the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Oneida County and certain residential, cultural and agricultural lands in Madison County as part of a comprehensive resolution of all disputes.

Though the decision is not yet final, Madison County Board of Supervisors Chairman John M. Becker said it his understanding that Associate Deputy Secretary of the Interior James Cason, the man responsible for making the final decision, most likely will adhere to the BIA's recommendation.

Immediate reaction to the announcement presumed the decision to be final. Scott Peterman, vice president of Upstate Citizens for Equality, a group that has been fighting to level the taxpaying playing field with the Nation, said the federal government has overstepped its bounds.

Peterman said the BIA and Department of the Interior have no authority to usurp the sovereignty of any state by taking property of the tax rolls.

"The federal government could literally destroy states if it had that power," Peterman said Friday evening.

According to Peterman, elected officials fail to understand that casinos don't bring in a lot of new revenue, as most of the patrons are local residents.

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