On March 5, 2013, five federal agencies jointly released the Action Plan to Implement the Memorandum of Understanding Regarding Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites (Action Plan). A copy of the Action Plan is attached; it can also be downloaded from the Department of the Interior (DOI) website: www.doi.gov/news/upload/SS-MOU-Action-Plan-March-5-2013.pdf. The interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which was issued on December 5, 2012, is available on the website of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP): www.achp.gov/docs/SacredSites-MOU_121205.pdf. See our General Memorandum 12-133 (December 14, 2012).
The agencies that are parties to the MOU and Action Plan are the Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, and Energy, and the ACHP. The stated purpose of the MOU is “to improve the protection of and tribal access to Indian sacred sites through enhanced and improved interdepartmental coordination and collaboration.” As in the MOU, the Action Plan uses the definition of sacred site in Executive Order 13007, Indian Sacred Sites, and also notes that sacred sites may be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
The Action Plan states a commitment to establish two working groups: the Executive Working Group, to be comprised of senior executives of each participating agency, and the Core Working Group, comprised of senior Department-level staff. The Core Working Group already exists: its members are named in an appendix to the Plan.
The actions that the Working Groups plan to take are set out in the following categories: Evaluation of Existing Authorities; Training Program; Development of Guidance; Creation and Maintenance of the Website; Public Outreach Plan; Confidentiality Standards; Management Practices; Interagency Expertise and Contracting with Indian Tribes; Outreach to Non-Federal Partners; and Building Tribal Capacity. All of the planned actions are to be carried out in accordance with the Guiding Principles, which include the recognition that “tribal input is essential” and a commitment to consult with tribes “as appropriate.”