USDA Policy and Procedures Review and Recommendations on Indian Sacred Sites >>

December 12th, 2012

USDA Policy and Procedures Review and Recommendations on Indian Sacred Sites

On December 5, 2012, during the Fourth Annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the release of a 133-page Report on Native Sacred Sites that was prepared by the USDA Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) and the Forest Service (FS) in consultation with Indian tribes.

The Report informs Secretary Vilsack about how the agency is meeting its obligations under federal laws and executive orders to protect Native sacred sites, but also acknowledges that USDA has some competing responsibilities to economic and recreational use in making land management decisions.

Looking forward, the Report explores opportunities under existing federal laws, policies, and procedures that could help the USDA and the Forest Service, in partnership with tribes, improve the protection of and tribal access to Native sacred sites and incorporate that goal into the Agency’s mission. It concludes by making a number of recommendations to the Secretary to achieve this goal. Recommendations are grouped into three categories:

(1) consultation/communication;
(2) policy development; and
(3) on-the-ground action.

Some recommendations can be acted on immediately at the discretion of the Secretary, some will require USDA to engage in a formal rulemaking or to adhere to other federal regulatory requirements, and still others will need congressional authorization. The report can be found on the USDA Office of Tribal Relations website

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