TITLE

Tribal-Agency Confidentiality: A Catch-22 for Sacred Site Management?

AUTHOR(S)
Plaut, Ethan
PUB. DATE
February 2009
SOURCE
Ecology Law Quarterly;2009, Vol. 36 Issue 1, p137
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
Numerous laws direct federal land management agencies to consider the impact of their decisions on sites sacred to American Indians. These laws require agencies to consult with tribes and practitioners in order to locate sacred sites and understand how land use affects them. But for a variety of religious, historical, and practical reasons, tribes and individual practitioners hesitate to disclose this information to federal land managers. As a result, agencies find themselves directed to protect sacred sites but unable to get relevant information from the people who possess it. Meanwhile, practitioners question the value of federal laws requiring sacred site consultation when such consultation may violate their religious beliefs and expose their sacred sites to overuse and misuse. To reduce the communication barrier, land management agencies may promise confidentiality to those with sacred site information. But once in an agency `s possession, the information may be subject to disclosure if it is requested under the Freedom of Information Act, or if the National Environmental Policy Act requires it to be included in a publicly available analysis. This Comment explores this interaction between the Freedom of Information Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and land management laws favoring tribal consultation, and analyzes the degree of confidentiality agencies can promise those with sacred site information. It analyzes options for agencies and tribes, and concludes a legislative solution would be both beneficial and appropriate.
ACCESSION #
39751083

 

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