Occasionally, we receive inquires regarding federal policies relating to actual, potential or alleged impacts of projects on bald and golden eagles and other migratory birds.

On October 12, 2012, Attorney General Holder issued a policy regarding Possession or Use of the Feathers or Other Parts of Federally Protected Birds for Tribal Cultural and Religious Purposes. The policy “formalizes and memorializes” the U.S. Department of Justice longstanding prosecutorial discretion policy regarding possession or use of feathers and parts of eagles and other migratory birds by members of federally recognized Indian tribes for religious and cultural purposes. The policy does not alter requirements that Indians obtain a permit from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to “take” eagles in the wild for religious or cultural reasons or to salvage eagle carcasses or parts that may have been killed by collision with project structures or vehicles or other causes.

This new policy reflects a deliberate federal efforts to accommodate tribal cultural and religious interests in eagles and other migratory birds. While the policy does not directly affect project developers or operations of energy, agriculture, infrastructure and other projects, it may be of interest to project developers and operators. Deliberate federal accommodation of tribal interests in possession and use of eagle and other migratory bird feathers and parts may lead federal agencies to give greater attention under NEPA and other laws affecting permits and project authorizations and in enforcement initiatives to potential project impacts on eagles and other migratory birds.