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|CONTACT:||Ray Massey • firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box 21628, Juneau AK 99802
|November 24, 2010|
USDA American Indian/Alaska Native sacred sites procedures under review
JUNEAU, Alaska- The USDA Office of Tribal Relations and the US Forest Service are jointly leading an initiative to conduct formal Tribal consultations on the effectiveness of existing department and agency sacred sites laws, regulations, and procedures, beginning late November.
In a Nov. 3 letter sent to Tribal government leaders and officials, Harris Sherman, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell encouraged Tribal leaders and members to actively participate.
The letter states in part, “The USDA (Office of Tribal Relations) and the Forest Service want to hear from you regarding how to improve our policies for sacred sites while simultaneously balancing the Forest Service's mission to deliver forest goods and services for current and future generations. We need your help to examine the effectiveness of existing laws and regulations as well as recommendations for future policy or guidelines that will ensure a consistent level of sacred site protection that is more acceptable to Tribes.”
The first national telephone session to introduce the effort and initiate the process will take place November 29, 2010. Tribal members may call (888) 469-1285 between 2 and 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time to participate. Callers will be prompted to enter pass code 5116673# after connecting to the teleconference.
In-person and telephone sessions will occur throughout the country from December through February.
Tongass National Forest Tribal Government Liaison John Autrey said he had already been in contact with Prince of Wales Island Tribes and that formal discussions with them will be held Feb. 23. Autrey said he had also heard from the Angoon Community Association and expected to be in contact with other Southeast Tribal entities in the very near future.
The Chugach National Forest has had no contact with Southcentral Tribes specific to this sacred site procedure review, according to Forest Tribal Government Liaison Jeremy Karchut. However, Karchut also expected that contacts with Tribal organizations will begin in earnest following the Nov. 29 national call.
Another national call session is slated after all local sessions are completed. It will summarize the listening sessions, provide an additional opportunity for Tribes to comment, and set the stage for the next phase of this effort. The next phase will include: development of a draft report including any recommendations for new sacred site procedures; government-to-government consultation with tribes across the country on that draft report; and subsequent reviews before a final proposed policy is completed for the Secretary of Agriculture.
Throughout this initiative, comments about sacred site policies can be e-mailed to TribalSacredSites@fs.fed.us. Background material and the agenda for the Nov. 29 call are accessible through http://www.fs.fed.us/spf/tribalrelations/sacredsites.
Editors Note: USFS Alaska Region POC for sacred sites procedures review info is