San Carlos Apache move to protect bald eagles

File photo

File photo

SAN CARLOS-The San Carlos Apache Tribal Council wants to protect Arizona's desert bald eagles and believes it can be done with the help of other tribes.

The San Carlos Apache Tribal Council passed a resolution last week opposing the delisting of Arizona's desert-nesting bald eagles as an endangered species. The listing of the bald eagle, as part of the Endangered Species Act gives the bald eagle protection from individuals, developers and industry.

The San Carlos Apache Tribal Council voted unanimously, 11-0, to oppose the proposed delisting of Arizona's desert bald eagles.

The resolution states that the bald eagle plays "an irreplaceable role in the cultural and traditional ceremonies" of all Apaches. The resolution suggests that removal of the endangered species protection would threaten the state's river ecosystems.

The San Carlos Apache Tribal Council wants the Endangered Species Act protection to continue for Arizona's bald eagles, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been proposing to delist the bald eagles since 1999. The proposal has been delayed due to protests and lawsuits.

A federal court judge in Minnesota recently ordered Fish and Wildlife to decide in June whether to delist the bald eagle.

San Carlos Chairman Wendsler Nosie, Sr., said they have discussed this with other tribes who feel the same way.

"We need to take action and we need to make sure that no one forgets about our culture--and it begins with the eagle," he said. "The San Carlos [Apache are] taking the lead and we hope other tribes will join us."

Chairman Nosie said the bald eagle is the caretaker of water and if it's delisted the water would be in jeopardy. He said the protection of the bald eagle through the Endangered Species Act keeps industry from polluting the state's rivers, but he added if the delisting occurred then industry would be given free reign to pollute.

Chairman Nosie said his tribe has contacted the White House and Rep. Rick Renzi about protecting the bald eagle. He hasn't heard back from either yet. He encourages other tribes from Arizona and throughout the U.S. to contact the White House and members of their state's congressional delegation.

"When we have a pool of tribes contacting federal officials, then we'll get a response," he said.

"Tribal leaders need to work together for what we have left because it never ends."

Chairman Nosie said eagle feathers play a large part in Native American ceremonies. "If the eagle is delisted then people will kill eagles for profit. It will put people in position to make money," he said.

Chairman Nosie said he was proud that the measure passed the San Carlos Tribal Council unanimously and without hesitation.

"It shows that the council knows the importance that the eagle has to us and our tribal identity," he said.

"I feel the same way--as the rest of the tribal council--that the bald eagle is special and holy."

Sandra Rambler, cultural advisor to the San Carlos chairman, said the eagle plays an important role in the lives of Native Americans and indigenous people throughout the world.

"They're the crux of our tradition," she said.

An ongoing lawsuit by Arizona conservationists is pushing U.S. Fish and Wildlife to continue protecting Arizona bald eagles.

There are an estimated 43 pairs of desert bald eagles in Arizona.

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