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 in 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 Tom Tidwell, Chief of the Forest Service, 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 listening session to introduce the effort and initiate the process will take place on November 29, 2010. In-person and telephone listening sessions will then occur throughout the country from December through February. A national session is slated after all local sessions are completed. This call 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 government-to-government consultation, development of the draft policy and subsequent reviews before a final proposed policy is completed.
For the Nov. 29 call, Tribal members can call between 2 and 5 p.m. Eastern time:
At the prompt, enter passcode 5116673#.
Throughout this initiative, comments about sacred site policies can be posted at http://www.fs.fed.us/spf/tribalrelations, or can be emailed directly to TribalSacredSites@fs.fed.us.