Eagle Act Guidelines Released: Hopis Want Arizona Exemption
Copies of the National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines, published in Tuesday's June 5 edition of the Federal Register, can be obtained by writing to: Eliza Savage, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Bird Management, 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Mail Stop MBSP-4107, Arlington, VA 22203.
Copies also may obtained via the Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/baldeagle.html
By Kathy Helms, Staff Writer
Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent
KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. -- The U.S. Forest Service published guidance documents Tuesday in the Federal Register regarding the disturbance of bald eagles, as a prelude to possible removal of the bald eagle from the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
After delisting, the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act would become the primary law protecting bald eagles. The Eagle Act prohibits the take of bald and golden eagles and provides a statutory definition of "take" that includes "disturb."
According to the notice, "disturb" means to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, injury to an eagle, a decrease in its productivity by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.
"The Hopi position is that we are asking the U.S. Fish & Wildlife to maintain the status quo, or an exemption for the state of Arizona," Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, said Tuesday.
"They are under a court order to make a decision by June 30. We think the decision will be to delist the bald eagle. I think that ís a given based on their prior notices in the Federal Register, going back to 1995," he said.
"I think the contention right now with the delisting is really narrowed down to the state of Arizona and what the statistics and data, based on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife's own research, are telling us. They're telling as part of the delisting rationale that the recovery is up to about 7,066 breeding pairs nationwide. But when you narrow it down to Arizona, there are only 42 breeding pairs," he said.
In addition to the National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines, the Forest Service published three related documents: a final rule codifying the Eagle Act definition of "disturb," a notice of availability of the final environmental assessment for the definition of "disturb," and a proposed rule to codify additional take authorizations under the Eagle Act.
The proposed delisting rule for the bald eagle was published first on July 6, 1999, in the Federal Register. The Department of the Interior's Fish & Wildlife reopened the comment period Feb. 16, 2006, with publication of another notice in the Federal Register.
Fish & Wildlife said the best available scientific and commercial data indicate that the bald eagle has recovered. The eagle population in the lower 48 states has increased from approximately 487 active nests in 1963, to an estimated minimum 7,066 breeding pairs today.
The bald eagle recovery is due in part to habitat protection and management actions, as well as reduction in levels of persistent pesticides such as DDT in the environment.
Kuwanwisiwma conveyed some of the Hopi's concerns to Fish & Wildlife at an intertribal meeting held in early May in Phoenix. "Clearly the tribes were in opposition," he said.
Subsequent to that, he and a Hopi Tribal Council representative were asked to do a presentation to the Arizona Commission on Indian Affairs. "We presented that Friday and the Commission passed a resolution in full support of the tribe's position to oppose it. So we have that as part of the record," he said.
On Monday, Hopi Cultural Resources filed a proposed resolution with the tribal secretary in hopes that it will be heard and adopted by the Tribal Council.
Though national statistics seem to indicate the bald eagle is quite healthy, regional Fish & Wildlife representatives also are concerned that it has not reached its full recovery goal due to the Southwest's environmental fragility. There is only one area currently remaining in Arizona that is habitat, and that is the Verde River, particularly around Camp Verde.
"I think the contention right now with the delisting is really narrowed down to the state of Arizona and what the statistics and data, based on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife's own research, are telling us," he said.
"The Hopi position is that we are asking the U.S. Fish & Wildlife to maintain the status quo, or an exemption for the state of Arizona. But the only basis for an exemption is whether or not the bald eagle in Arizona is a distinct or separate species from the general population of bald eagles, and the Fish & Wildlife is saying it is not. The birds in Arizona are the same nationwide," Kuwanwisiwma said.
Under the Endangered Species Act, the law states that any "threatened or endangered" decision has to be science or biologically based. "What the tribes are trying to say is, 'Hey, look, wait a minute. We haven't, first of all, been consulted to the extent we would like. And secondly, if we were consulted in the research, I think we probably could have contributed to the scientific finding in terms of traditional practices, for example.
"Out of the 42 breeding pairs, interestingly, 20 of those breeding pairs are on tribal lands. So that's almost half of the known population, and the tribes haven't been extensively consulted," he said. "Right now, there's a general, unilateral decision nationwide that once it's delisted, then the states will take over.
"In preparation for that, the state of Arizona has already done what they call ‘Assessment and Management Strategy.’. But when you go into that document, there isn't much about how the state of Arizona proposes to interact with the tribes. So there are a number of reasons the Hopi Tribe will oppose the delisting -- some for political reasons and some for biological reasons," he said.
TO SUBMIT an ARTICLE, OPINION PIECE, COMMENTS to the Native Unity Digest, e-mail email@example.com.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
AIROS NATIVE NETWORK plays music, news and other great programs from Indian Country - www.airos.org
FOR NATIVE CELEBRITY NEWS - go to www.nativecelebs.com
Visit Vietnam Vet. LARRY MITCHELL at http://www.potawatomivet.com and click on his blog at the site.
NATIVE BIZ LEARNING CENTER - www.learn.nativebiz.com was developed for tribal education specialists serving tribal communities. Any tribal community can register at NO COST.
NAJA ALERTS, POTPOURRI - Every Tuesday when available.