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Final Sacred Sites Report Released

USDA renews commitment to protection of culturally significant lands and resources

WASHINGTON, December 6, 2012–Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today released a report calling for USDA and the U.S. Forest Service to work more closely with tribal governments in the protection, respectful interpretation and appropriate access to Indian sacred sites.

The report recommends steps the Forest Service should take to strengthen the partnerships between the agency, tribal governments, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities to help preserve America's rich native traditions.

"American Indian and Alaska Native values and culture have made our nation rich in spirit and deserve to be honored and respected," Vilsack said. "By honoring and protecting sacred sites on national forests and grasslands, we foster improved tribal relationships and a better understanding of native people's deep reverence for natural resources and contributions to society."

 

Sacred sites are currently defined by Executive Order 13007 signed in 1996, which focuses on specific sites and Indian religion. The report recommends that the department take a broader view by also considering cultural and landscape perspectives.

"I applaud the Forest Service for initiating and completing the sacred sites report," said Harris Sherman, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment. "It is a very important step in broadening our understanding and protection of sacred sites, and building on relationships with Native America Communities".

The report is a culmination of more than 100 meetings with tribal members and agency employee surveys. Among the recommendations is for Forest Service employees to receive training about tribal history, law and cultural sensitivities.

Recommendations include:

 

Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year.