Thursday, March 15, 2012

Government Issues First Ever Permit To Kill Bald Eagle For Religious Purposes

In what is seen as an important vindication of Native American religious freedom, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week issued a permit to allow the Northern Arapaho tribe to kill up to two bald eagles (without eggs or nestlings) this year for religious purposes.  AP reported yesterday that while the government has previously issued permits for tribes to kill golden eagles, this is the first time that a bald eagle permit has been issued.  The step came after the tribe last year brought suit over the government's failure to grant a permit application filed nearly three years ago. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 USC 668a) authorizes the Secretary of Interior to issue a permit for the taking of eagles for scientific or exhibition purposes, or for the religious purposes of Indian tribes, when that is compatible with preservation of the eagle population. The government's administration of the permit system under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act was unsuccessfully challenged in a long-running prosecution of a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe who in 2005 killed a bald eagle so he could use it in his tribe's Sun Dance. (See prior posting.)