By Jerry Seper-The Washington Times
While federal wildlife laws criminalize the killing of eagles and other migratory birds for their feathers, the Justice Department on Friday exempted members of federally-recognized Indian tribes from the law, saying the use of eagle feathers was both â€œreligious and cultural.â€
The exemption means that tribal members will not be prosecuted for wearing or carrying federally protected birds, bird feathers or bird parts, although the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other federal wildlife laws prohibit such use.
Under the new regulation, Indian tribal members also are allowed to collect feathers found in the wild as long as they do not disturb federally protected birds or nests.
â€œThis policy will help ensure a consistent and uniform approach across the nation to protecting and preserving eagles, and to honoring their cultural and spiritual significance to American Indians,â€ said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. â€œThe Department of Justice is committed to striking the right balance in enforcing our nationâ€™s wildlife laws by respecting the cultural and religious practices of federally recognized Indian tribes with whom the United States shares a unique government-to-government relationship.â€
Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno, who is head of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, described the new policy as â€œa major step forward by establishing a consistent and transparent policy to guide federal enforcement of the nationâ€™s wildlife laws.â€
Mr. Holder signed the new policy after what the Justice Department described as â€œextensive department consultationâ€ with tribal leaders and tribal groups. The policy covers all federally protected birds, bird feathers and bird parts.
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