CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has received an application but has not yet made a decision about granting permit to a Wyoming Indian tribe that wants to kill bald eagles for religious purposes, a spokesman says.

The agency is considering the application after dropping its appeal of a ruling by a federal judge who previously said the agency couldn’t block the Northern Arapaho Tribe from taking eagles on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

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Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012 granted the Northern Arapaho Tribe the nation’s first permit to kill or capture bald eagles for religious purposes. However, the agency said the tribe couldn’t take the eagles on the reservation in central Wyoming because the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, which shares the reservation, opposes killing eagles.

(credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In response to a lawsuit from the Northern Arapaho, U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson of Cheyenne ruled last year that the Fish and Wildlife Service couldn’t infringe on the tribe’s religious freedoms to satisfy the concerns of the Eastern Shoshone. The federal agency appealed that decision, but dropped its appeal.

Northern Arapaho officials have hailed the agency’s decision to drop the appeal, saying they expect the Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a permit allowing the tribe to take eagles on the reservation in coming months.

The federal agency collects the carcasses of eagles and other birds of prey that are killed by wind turbines, electric lines and other causes. It stores the remains at a repository in Colorado and releases them to Indians who request them for religious purposes.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe maintains that it’s unacceptable to them to take eagle carcasses, which are often decomposed, from the federal repository. Tribal members say they need to take their own eagles to perform the tribe’s annual Sun Dance.

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Steve Segin, spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Colorado, responded this week to written questions from The Associated Press about the agency’s decision to drop its appeal.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has submitted a new permit application to the federal agency seeking to take eagles each year while the agency’s legal appeal has been pending.

“We are currently reviewing the tribe’s application and have not arrived at any decisions,” Segin stated. “The permit, if issued, would be valid for one year.”

Segin said the agency dropped its appeal because it determined the best way to address the issues was in the context of acting on the Northern Arapaho Tribe’s new permit application.

The bald eagle was removed from the federal list of threatened species in 2007. The birds remain protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Federal law prohibits non-Indians from killing or possessing any part of bald eagles.

By BEN NEARY, Associated Press

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