WASHINGTON–Three men were sentenced Friday in federal court in Flagstaff, Ariz., for illegally possessing a protected golden eagle.
Arthur Batala, Darrell Batala and Steven Silas, all members of the Hopi Indian Tribe of Arizona, were sentenced for taking and possessing a golden eagle in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a federal law that protects most species of birds in the United States. Magistrate Judge Mark E. Aspey of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona sentenced Art Batala to pay $500 restitution and serve two years of probation, Darrell Batala to pay $500 restitution and serve one year of probation and Silas to pay $500 restitution and serve one year of supervised probation.
Eagles are viewed as sacred in many Native American cultures, and the feathers and other parts of the birds are central to Native American religions and customs. By law under the Migratory Bird Treaty and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Acts, enrolled members of federally recognized Indian tribes may obtain permits to take eagles for religious purposes, but federal law prohibits the sale of bald and golden eagles or their feathers and other parts.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service operates the National Eagle Repository, which collects eagles nationwide that die naturally, by accident or other means, to supply enrolled members of federally recognized tribes with eagle parts for their religious use.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement, the Hopi Resource Enforcement Services, and the Navajo Nation Department of Fish and Wildlife. The case was prosecuted by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.