In a monumental decision that underscores the agency’s commitment to honoring the wishes of federally recognized tribes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has revised its policy regarding the retention of eagle remains on lands within Indian Country. Federally recognized tribes are now able to retain bald and golden eagle remains found on these lands under certain conditions and with the proper permits.

In 2017, FWS hosted numerous in-person and telephone consultation opportunities for federally recognized tribes in the U. S. During these consultation sessions, tribal members requested the ability to retain bald and golden eagle remains found on their lands. FWS has revised its policy to accommodate this request. The updated policy has three goals:

Authorize the retention of eagles found by a tribe’s members in Indian Country

Enhance eagle conservation on these lands

Avoid unnecessary human health or safety challenges that some deceased eagles pose

Under the updated policy, a federally recognized tribe must receive a permit prior to possessing eagle remains found within Indian Country. When a tribal member or an employee of a federally recognized tribe discovers eagle remains, he or she must report it immediately to tribal or FWS law enforcement officials. Eagle remains found and reported may be eligible for return to the federally recognized tribe for religious purposes after the service completes any activities it deems necessary for law enforcement or for scientific management reasons.

If FWS or a tribal law enforcement officer designated by FWS determines that the eagle was not taken intentionally and human health risks aren’t suspected or known, it may be transferred directly to the respective federally recognized tribe as long as the proper permits are in place.

Bald and golden eagles are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Lacey Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Certain activities like harassing, killing or selling these species are strictly prohibited. Eagles that are unlawfully taken, diseased, poisoned or part of an ongoing investigation will not be eligible for distribution

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is honored to have the ability to support tribes’ spiritual, religious and cultural pursuits by authorizing the retention of eagle remains found by federally recognized tribal members on their lands,” said Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson. “By working together, we hope to conserve bald and golden eagle populations for future generations.”

“The Trump Administration is proud to acknowledge the significance of the eagle in many tribal cultures,” said Joe Grogan, Director, White House Domestic Policy Council. “This new policy honors that significance as well as the commitment tribal governments have displayed leveraging their sovereignty, in concert with the United States, to safeguard the bald eagle and other eagle species of religious importance in tribal communities. It also cuts back needless bureaucratic red tape. The White House thanks the Department of the Interior for leading the way to this sensible new policy.”

“Because of its intrinsic beauty, skill and courage, the eagle is a valued symbol of America and has long been venerated in many tribal cultures throughout Indian Country,” said John Tahsuda, Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs. “Indian Affairs staff have worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tribal nations on a common-sense approach to the handling of bald and golden eagle remains found on tribal lands. This updated eagle remains retention policy respects tribal cultural and religious practices while protecting eagle populations now and in the future.”

More information regarding the service’s eagle retention policy update can be found here:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube .

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