U.S. Forest Service opens Sacred Sites Report for public comment

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Forest Service has opened for public comment through the Federal Register a draft report that outlines its policies and procedures on Indian Sacred Sites.

The 60-day comment window follows on-going dialogue between the Forest Service and Tribal representatives on Sacred Sites. The Forest Service will accept public comments on the draft report while honoring its responsibility to consult with Indian Tribes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requested an internal review and consultation with tribes to determine if existing law, regulations and policies affecting Sacred Sites provide a consistent level of protection.

"I cannot overemphasize the value of government-to-government consultations with the Tribes," said Vilsack. "These discussions continue to produce information critical to developing land management strategies that respect and protect America's sacred lands."

Opening the draft report for public review and comment is in keeping with President Obama's commitment to government transparency.

Public comments on the report will be accepted from Aug. 5 to Oct. 4. Afterwards Forest Service officials will review and consider all suggestions received.

The draft report is available for review at http://www.fs.fed.us/spf/tribalrelations/sacredsites.

Public comments can be sent to: U.S. Forest Service Office of Tribal Relations 1400 Independence Ave., SW Mailstop Code: 1160 Washington, DC 20250-1160.

Comments also may be submitted by fax to (202) 205-1773 or e-mail to sacredsitescomment@fs.fed.us. The final report is expected to be completed this winter.

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

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