State DEC Drafts Policy On Relations With NY Indians

December 13, 2008

Author: Mike McAndrew

Source: Syracuse Online

For years, relations between the state Department of Environmental Conservation and New York's Native American nations have been as frosty as a December morning.

Onondaga Nation leaders bristled when the DEC showed them the agency's $450 million Onondaga Lake cleanup plan a plan the Onondaga deemed flawed just days before making it public.

DEC arrests of native people for violating state hunting and fishing regulations have caused friction.

But representatives of both governments hope a proposed DEC policy one that requires the agency to consult with Indian nations whenever the DEC is taking action that will affect the nations' interests will lead to better cooperation.

The policy could affect how the DEC makes decisions on issues affecting land use, pollution, wildlife, and protection of sacred sites, Native American graves and burial objects.

The draft policy requires the agency to consult as early as possible, on a government-to-government basis, with Indian nations about any DEC action that may affect environmental or cultural resources of significance to the nations, even if the resources are located outside of native territories or trust land.

The DEC also would be required to consult with the nations on activity by third parties that require a DEC approval or permit and would have a foreseeable effect on Indian nation interests.