Fast Approval for Eagle Hunt at the Valles Caldera

Caldera Action learned that the Valles Caldera will allow people from Jemez Pueblo to hunt or trap an eagle this fall inside the Valles Caldera National Preserve.  Either a bald or golden eagle may be taken from inside the Preserve by a Pueblo group that will camp out for up to a month in the northwest part of the park. The NPS will close the area near their camp to the public.

Eighteen members of Jemez Pueblo may camp in a large tent for up to a month. Under a special use permit, they will use off-road-vehicles to move their gear and they will have campfires. Under the special use permit they will be allowed to do things that the public is prohibited from doing.

The NPS chose to allow the eagle hunt because they wish to support Native traditions on the Preserve by people who have lived near the VCNP for many hundreds of years. We agree with the NPS that traditional activities should be permitted providing modern technology used does not damage wildlife or wildland qualities.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service which manages endangered species in the US would allow taking up to 8 eagles. The USFWS issued public documents about tribal eagle hunting in 2013. The NPS will allow only one eagle to be killed.

The managers of the Valles Caldera did not notify the public beyond a mention on a somewhat obscure part of their website where ongoing projects are listed. It appears that an Environmental Assessment was hastily done for the eagle hunt, the EA was posted on the park website, and within a week or two they issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Unusually, the FONSI was signed by National Park Service Director Chuck Sams rather than a local or regional NPS official.

The Pueblo applied for a Special Use Permit on September 8th, 2023. Since the EA was not dated, we don’t know when the EA was issued. The FONSI was signed by Director Sams on October 18th.

Park Service regulations require the park to notify the public of actions that would affect the environment of the Preserve since it is public land. Regulations further require that the public should be allowed to comment on actions the agency is taking on the public’s behalf. Federal agencies use the National Environmental Policy Act process to inform the public and collect public comment.  Given the short time the EA was exposed to the public and the fast issuance of the FONSI, the public could not comment.

While we agree that the Pueblo people should be allowed to carry out their customs on the Preserve, we don’t support short-circuiting the public information and comment process for this or any other action.

To read the Environmental Assessment and the Finding of No Significant Impact, click here. The Special Use Permit for the hunt has yet to be posted by the NPS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.