Wyoming tribe gets OK to kill 2 bald eagles for ceremonies

March 14, 2012

By Michael Winter, USA TODAY

In a rare and potentially landmark decision, a Wyoming Indian tribe has received federal approval to kill two bald eagles for religious ceremonies, the Associated Press reports.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe had sued the government last year, arguing its members’ religious freedom was being violated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to issue a “take” permit.

Federal law prohibits killing a bald eagle, the national bird. Eagle feathers and body parts are kept in a federal repository for tribal religious ceremonies.

The agency issued the permit Friday, allowing the tribe to kill two bald eagles off the Wind River Indian Reservation. The tribe shares the land with the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, which opposed killing the birds on the reservation.

“I’ve not heard of a take permit for a bald eagle,” Steve Moore, a lawyer with the Native American Rights Fund, or NARF, in Boulder, Colo., told AP. He said he and the fund “see it as a legitimate expression of sovereignty by the tribe, and respect for that sovereignty by the Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Fish and Wildlife had never issued a kill permit through 2009. AP says it wasn’t clear immediately if another permit was issued before the one given to the Northern Arapaho.

Although the bald eagle was taken off the U.S. list of threatened species in 2007, the species is still covered by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which was enacted in 1940. Learn more about their recovery.

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