Office of External Affairs
Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Mountain-Prairie Region
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 19, 2007

Contact:

Rachel F. Levin, 612-713-5311
Andrea Kirk, 612-713-5449
Barb Perkins, 303-236-4588

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Environmental Assessment on Distribution of Migratory Bird Feathers to Native Americans

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on a proposal to develop regulations that would allow Native Americans to obtain parts and feathers from migratory birds other than eagles for religious or spiritual use. The Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) was published in the June 15 Federal Register.

The EA would assess potential impacts on the natural and human environment that might result from different alternatives for legalizing the acquisition of feathers and parts other than those from eagles, including impacts to Native American culture and religion. Currently, no federal regulations govern the acquisition of migratory bird parts by Native Americans.

Between 1990 and 1999, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Eagle Repository distributed migratory bird parts and feathers from birds (excluding eagles) to enrolled members of federally recognized Native American tribes.

In 1999, the Service suspended distribution of non-eagle feathers due to administrative resource constraints. Since that time, the Service has generally not issued permits to enrolled tribal members for the use of non-eagle feathers in religious and cultural ceremonies.

  • The Service regularly receives inquiries regarding the availability of migratory bird parts and feathers to Native Americans for religious and cultural use. The Service acknowledges the value of this resource in preserving Native American religion and culture and seeks input on nine topics:
  • the sources of the parts and feathers that would be made available;
  • criteria or conditions that should be established for eligibility;
  • how different means of legal acquisition may affect tribes;
  • how Native American tribes could be affected if such authorization is extended to others in addition to enrolled members of Federally recognized tribes;
  • the extent of Native American demand for such feathers and parts;
  • whether the types of feathers being requested should be limited to those historically significant to the tribes acquiring them;
  • which species of migratory birds are most valuable for Native American religious/spiritual purposes;
  • potential impacts to migratory bird populations and other wildlife; and
  • other concerns about this initiative.

The Service does not expect to authorize any means of distribution of non-eagle feathers and parts that would affect migratory bird or wildlife populations or impact wildlife habitat, and does not anticipate take from the wild of live birds through hunting or any other method.

Copies of the Notice of Intent may be found on the Service’s Web site at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/MidwestBird, or obtained by writing: Andrea Kirk, Permits Administrator, USFWS Migratory Bird Permits, 1 Federal Drive, Fort Snelling, MN 55111, or calling 612-713-5436.

Comments must be submitted by August 14 and may be sent via e-mail to otherfeathers@fws.gov, submitted via http://www.regulations.gov, by fax to 612-713-7179 or by mail to Andrea Kirk at the address above. Please reference RIN 1018-AV14 when submitting comments by any of these methods.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

- FWS -


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov

Email Us: MountainPrairie@fws.gov