Judge rules against tribe in bald eagle case

Posted: Nov 9, 2012

Written by

BEN NEARY, AP/Greenwire
Bald eagle

A federal judge ruled in favor of the Fish and Wildlife Service in a controversial decision that says an American Indian tribe cannot kill bald eagles on its reservation.

Earlier this year, the agency granted the Northern Arapaho of Wyoming a permit that would allow the tribe to kill up to two bald eagles annually for religious purposes. But the permit said the animals could not be killed on the tribe's Wind River Indian Reservation because of objections from the Eastern Shoshone tribe, which also lives on the reservation.

But that stipulation means the Northern Arapaho would have to kill the birds on state lands, which is illegal under state law.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson wrote the agency had acted properly. But the Northern Arapaho could pursue further legal action by claiming the restriction violates the tribe's religious rights.

Kimberly Varilek, attorney general for the Eastern Shoshone, said she expected the Northern Arapaho to appeal the ruling.

"I think that the most important thing that the judge ruled on, obviously not just upholding the permit in its current form, but recognizing the difficulty of trying to find a least-restrictive solution that can accommodate both tribes," she said. "The judge pointed out again that it is the United States' responsibility to consider both tribes' interest here"

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