Onondaga Nation regains 1,000+ sacred acres

TULLY VALLEY, N.Y. (WSYR) — In a historic settlement, the Onondaga Nation will regain more than 1,000 acres of ancestral land, according to officials. This is one of the largest returns of land to an Indigenous nation by a state.

The agreement is a result of the March 2018 National Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement between the federal Department of Interior, New York State, and Honeywell International, Inc. The full ownership of Honeywell’s 1,023 acres of land will be returned to the Onondaga Nation for restoration and stewardship of the property.

To the Onondaga people, Onondaga Lake and Onondaga Creek are sacred. The Tully Valley property includes:

  • Headwaters of Onondaga Creek
  • More than 45 acres of wetland/floodplains
  • Approximately 980 acres of forest and successional fields

This historic agreement represents a unique opportunity to return traditional homelands back to Indigenous people to steward for the benefit of their community. We look forward to drawing upon the Onondaga Nation’s expertise and Indigenous knowledge in helping manage the area’s valuable wildlife and habitat. Consistent with the President’s “America the Beautiful” initiative, all of us have a role to play in this Administration’s work to ensure our conservation efforts are locally led and support communities’ health and well-being.

Deb Haaland, U.S. Secretary of the Interior

The federal, state, and Onondaga Nation partnership that led to the return of the ancestral land will include a conservation easement with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). It will prohibit commercial development, provide protection and restoration of natural areas, and allow outdoor recreational and educational uses, including public access to Fellows Falls. The Onondaga Nation will also develop a “management plan” in consultation with the National Resource Trustees in order to determine the type/extent of recreational and public use.

It is with great joy that the Onondaga Nation welcomes the return of the first substantial acreage of its ancestral homelands. The Nation can now renew its stewardship obligations to restore these lands and waters and to preserve them for the future generations yet to come. The Nation hopes that this cooperative, government-to-government effort will be another step in healing between themselves and all others who live in this region which has been the homeland of the Onondaga Nation since the dawn of time.

Onondaga Nation Chief Tadodaho Sidney Hill

Required by this settlement, Honeywell is bound to implement 18 restoration projects, including the Tully Valley land transfer. Already, Honeywell has completed or is in the process of finishing restoration projects including a public boat ramp along Seneca River, enhanced habitat and fishing opportunities along the shores of Onondaga Lake and Ninemile Creek, and the transfer of the Honeywell Visitor Center to the state of New York. The company also must pay more than $5 million for the Trustees’ implementation of additional restoration projects in and around the Onondaga Lake Watershed.

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