Interior Starts Process to Undo Eagle Act Regulations to Allow Non-Indians to Access Eagle Feathers

Here is the notice:

2019-04-30 FR

An excerpt:

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), have received a petition for rulemaking, which asks the Service to revise the existing rules pertaining to the religious use of federally protected bird feathers. The petition is being published pursuant to the terms of a settlement agreement entered into in 2016 by the United States with McAllen Grace Brethren Church and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. Any changes to existing rules will be subject to a public comment period, and tribal consultation consistent with Executive Order 13175 and the Department of the Interior Policy on Consultation with Indian Tribes. The Service seeks comments on the petition.

New Study on Eagle Mortalities at Wind Energy Facilities

This study, collected by United States Fish and Wildlife Service employees, was published in the Journal of Raptor Research.




Federal Polar Bear Critical Habitat Rule Vacated

Here are materials in Alaska Oil and Gas Assn. v. Salazar (D. Alaska):

Alaska Natives Motion for Summary J

Federal Consolidated Opposition Brief

Alaska Natives Reply

DCT Order Vacating Polar Bear Rule

From the opinion:

Plaintiffs contend that the Service proceeded with an unprecedented critical habitat designation despite the Service’s finding that such designation “will not result in any present or anticipated future conservation benefit to the polar bear species ” and is not “ ‘essential’ to the conservation of the species.” Plaintiffs further opine that: (1) such designation will “have significant adverse ramifications for the people who live and work on the North Slope, for Alaska’s oil and gas industry, and for the State of Alaska”; (2) the designation will “leave the species worse off because it is impairing the cooperative relationship that the … [Service] has sought to build with the Alaska Natives”; (3) the Service’s failure to exclude “native-owned lands and rural communities” will “disproportionately harm Alaska Natives and other North Slope Borough residents”; (4) the Service failed “to engage in meaningful consultation with [the State of Alaska and with] Alaska Natives early in the rulemaking process”; (5) the Service’s inclusion of “a one-mile no disturbance zone as part of the barrier island habitat unit of the designation … exceeds its authority under the ESA”; (6) “[t]he Service failed to adequately consider and include in the calculation of the total economic impacts of the designation the substantial indirect incremental economic impacts”; (7) “[t]he Service failed to provide Alaska with an adequate written justification as required by the ESA … for promulgating a … designation that conflicts with the comments submitted to the” Service; (8) the Service failed to address the area exclusion requests by Alaska “and failed to adequately consider whether the benefits of excluding those areas were outweighed by the benefits of including them”; (9) “[t]he Service improperly included areas that it concedes were not occupied by polar bears at the time of the designation”; and (10) “[t]he Service improperly included areas as critical habitat without determining that those areas contained the physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the polar bear.” Plaintiffs seek the invalidation of the Final Rule and request that the Court vacate and remand the Rule.


Update in Northern Arapaho Suit re: Eagle Act and RFRA

Northern Arapaho has moved for judgment on the pleadings in its suit challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s administration of the Eagle Acts:

Northern Arapaho Motion for Judgment on Pleadings

Their complaint is here.

Eastern Shoshone Moves to Enter N. Arapaho Eagle Suit against FWS as Amicus in Opposition


Eastern Shoshone Motion for Amicus Status

Northern Arapaho Tribe’s Amended Complaint Regarding Eagle Permit

This Amended Complaint (from March 30th) is related to the previous post here. An excerpt from the complaint’s Preliminary Statement reads:

This action seeks to protect the traditional religious rights and freedoms of the Tribe and its members. Those rights include the limited taking of an eagle for traditional religious purposes of the Tribe. For two and a half years, Defendants failed or refused to issue a federal permit to allow the taking of an eagle by members of the Northern Arapaho Tribe for traditional Native American religious purposes. The denial placed members of the Tribe at risk of criminal prosecution for the taking of an eagle pursuant to their rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), other federal laws, and the laws of the Tribe.

Northern Arapaho Code Title 13 Freedom of Religion can be found here.

As of last week, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was reviewing whether or not the Northern Arapaho Tribe would require state permission under the permit. That article is here.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Seek to Register Sacred Site and Prevent Mining

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are attempting to list a sacred site on the National Register of Historic Places in hopes of stopping plans to mine Chicago Peak. Stories are here and here.

Case material (unsuccessful efforts to stop the mining project) referenced in the articles:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Review Material

District Court Opinion

Ninth Circuit Opinion