Friday, March 30, 2012

Bald Eagle Permit Was "Catch-22"; Amended Complaint Filed

Earlier this month, the issuance by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of a permit to allow the Northern Arapaho Indian tribe to kill up to two bald eagles for religious purposes was widely seen as an important vindication of Native American religious freedom. (See prior posting.) However, according to an AP report today, once the tribe's attorneys read the fine print, they concluded that the permit was a "sham." The federal permit  specifically bars the tribe from killing eagles within the Wind River Indian Reservation, and also requires adherence to state law in killing the eagles. Wyoming state law prohibits all killing of eagles and applies everywhere in the state except on the Wind River Reservation.  So the permit precludes taking of eagles at the only location where state law allows it. All of this has led the tribe on behalf of its members to file an amended complaint in Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Ashe, (D WY, filed 3/30/2012) (full text of complaint) claiming that their rights under the Free Exercise Clause and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act have been infringed, and that the government's action violates the Administrative Procedure Act. The lawsuit seeks an injunction ordering the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a permit without improper restrictions in it.