By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
In a monumental decision that underscores the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency commitment to honoring the wishes of federally recognized tribes, the agency has revised policy regarding retention of eagle remains on lands within Indian Country. Federally recognized Tribes are now able to retain bald and golden eagle remains found on these lands under certain conditions and with the proper permits.
In 2017, the Service hosted numerous in-person and telephone consultations with federally recognized Tribes in which Tribal members requested the ability to retain bald and golden eagle remains found on their lands.
The policy has been revised to accommodate this request.
“Because of its intrinsic beauty, skill and courage, the eagle is a valued symbol of America and has long been venerated in many Tribal cultures throughout Indian Country,” said John Tahsuda, Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs. “Indian Affairs staff have worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Tribal nations on a common-sense approach to the handling of bald and golden eagle remains found on Tribal lands.
“This updated eagle remains retention policy respects Tribal cultural and religious practices while protecting eagle populations now and in the future.”
Under the updated policy, a federally recognized Tribe must receive a permit prior to possessing eagle remains found within Indian Country. When a Tribal member or an employee of a federally recognized Tribe discovers eagle remains, he or she must report it immediately to Tribal or Service law enforcement officials.
Eagle remains found and reported may be eligible for return to the federally recognized Tribe for religious purposes after the Service completes any activities it deems necessary for law enforcement or for scientific management reasons.
If the Service or a Tribal law enforcement officer designated by the Service determines that the eagle was not taken intentionally and human health risks aren’t suspected or known, it may be transferred directly to the respective federally recognized Tribe as long as the proper permits are in place.
Bald and golden eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Certain activities like harassing, killing or selling these species are strictly prohibited.
Eagles that are unlawfully taken, diseased, poisoned or part of an ongoing investigation will not be eligible for distribution.
For more information regarding the Service’s eagle retention policy update click here.