Eagle Protection: Examining the Interaction between Federal Regulation and Traditional Tribal Practice

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Course Information

Time 60 Minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

Longstanding Federal law protects bald and golden eagles by criminalizing their illegal “take.” This includes so-called “direct takes,” where individuals and companies may be criminally prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice – and, if convicted, fined and imprisoned – for killing eagles or possessing or trafficking in eagle feathers and body parts. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and other Federal laws also make it a crime to “take” eagles indirectly – for instance, by operating a commercial wind energy turbine facility without a valid eagle “take” permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”). These Federal protections run headlong into some Native American cultural practices, predating the United States, by which traditional practitioners have been “taking” eagles for years. Eagles occupy a special place in the spirituality of many tribes, which in some instances historically maintained their own eagle aviaries and have continued to “take” eagles for religious purposes since time immemorial. 

 This clash of civilizations has led to an uneasy and incomplete accommodation in contemporary Federal law, which this presentation addresses from legal and cultural perspectives. Beginning with the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico a generation ago, USFWS has authorized a growing number of Native American tribal eagle sanctuaries by which tribes may care for injured or wounded eagles. USFWS has also established the National Eagle Repository in Denver, to which eagles that have been electrocuted, shot, poisoned or otherwise have died may be sent, by which traditional Native spiritual practitioners may apply to obtain eagle features and body parts for non-commercial, ceremonial purposes. The demand for eagles greatly exceeds the available supply and may now be further strained by ongoing efforts from non-Indians to request eagles feathers and body parts from the Repository on religious or spiritual grounds.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Examine the Federal laws and treaties protecting eagles, including the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Lacey Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  2. Become familiar with traditional tribal spiritual practices and customs concerning eagles
  3. Discuss tribally initiated eagle protection and habitat protection programs
  4. Identify the role of the National Eagle Repository and emerging challenges to the Federally operated and directed system by which Native Americans may request eagle feathers and body parts

Credit Information

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Troy Eid

Greenberg Traurig LLP

Troy A. Eid is a nationally known legal expert on environmental enforcement, investigations and compliance, energy and natural resource development, and Federal Indian law and Native American and Alaska Native tribal law. A former United States Attorney who has served both Republican and Democratic Presidential administrations, and a past state cabinet officer for the State of Colorado, Troy is a trusted public figure in the Rocky Mountain West and Washington, DC, and a familiar face in many federal, state and tribal courtrooms across the country.

Troy, who first joined the firm in 2003, co-founded and co-chairs Greenberg Traurig’s American Indian Law Practice Group, one of the largest and highest-rated legal teams in the United States. A principal shareholder with Greenberg Traurig's Denver office, Troy practices at the trial and appellate level. He has successfully defended clients in some of the largest and highest-profile environmental enforcement actions ever filed by U.S. Department of Justice under the Clean Water Act and other federal laws, as well as in grand jury proceedings. Troy is also frequently sought as a mediator and arbitrator, especially in cases involving Indian tribes and tribal enterprises.

An experienced legal project manager, Troy has coordinated various inter-disciplinary legal and consulting teams in numerous large-scale energy infrastructure projects, including natural gas pipelines, transmission lines, highways and railroads. He specializes in civil and criminal investigations involving petroleum-related leaks and spills, uranium contamination, hazardous waste pollution, asbestos, and other environmental and workplace safety matters, as well as health care and hospital-related regulatory, permitting and compliance projects. Troy is also a recognized authority on Native American cultural resource protection and related government-to-government consultation between tribes and the federal government under the National Historic Preservation Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and other laws.

Troy is well-respected on both sides of the aisle for his professional knowledge and expertise, especially as it relates to energy, natural resource, criminal justice, and other legal and public policy matters concerning the American West.

He served as Colorado’s United States Attorney from 2006-09, appointed by President George W. Bush. From 2010-14, Troy was elected to chair the Indian Law and Order Commission (ILOC), an independent national advisory board created by the Tribal Law and Order Act to advise President Obama and Congress on public safety improvements for all 566 federally recognized Native American and Alaska Native tribes and nations. The ILOC’s landmark 2013 report, A Roadmap for Making Native America Safer, proposes the most sweeping criminal justice reforms in Federal Indian law and policy since the New Deal. Endorsed by the American Bar Association, the ILOC’s Roadmap helped lead to the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act Amendments recognizing tribes’ criminal jurisdiction to prosecute non-Indian perpetrators in domestic violence cases.

A recipient of the Navajo Nation Bar Association’s Member of the Year Award, Troy grew up in Colorado and graduated from Stanford University and the University of Chicago Law School. He clerked for Judge Edith H. Jones of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He has been recognized for distinguished public service by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other federal and state law enforcement agencies. He was also recognized by Law Week Colorado as Colorado Lawyer of Year for representing the seller of the HealthOne hospital system in Colorado, the largest hospital-related transaction ever in the Rocky Mountain West. 

A regular contributor to the national edition of Native American Law360 and other Law360 publications, Troy teaches energy, natural resources, environmental and Federal Indian law as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Denver-Sturm College of Law. He currently serves as an At-Large Member on the Tribal Issues Advisory Board of the United States Sentencing Commission, an independent agency within the Federal judiciary that is assessing the impact of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines in criminal convictions involving Native Americans and Alaska Natives.