Environment | Law | National

National Park Service proposes rule for tribal gathering of plants

The El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico. Photo from Chackerman / Wikipedia

The National Park Service is soliciting public comments on a new rule that allows tribal gathering of plants.

Existing regulations allow gathering of fruits, berries, nuts or unoccupied seashells by the general public. But they do not allow plant gathering by tribes except where provided by a specific law or treaty.

The new rule, announced today in the Federal Register, changes that. Members of federally recognized tribes will be able to gather plants or plant parts for traditional purposes in national parks and national monuments through government-to-government agreements.

“The proposed rule respects tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the tribes,” NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said in a press release. “It also supports the mission of the National Park Service and the continuation of unique cultural traditions of American Indians.”

Comments are being accepted until July 20. Barring significant opposition to the proposal, the NPS would issue a final rule sometime after that.

"Indian tribes practiced their traditional harvests of plants and plant parts on or from lands that are now included in units of the National Park System long before the arrival of the European settlers," today's notice states.

After submitting a request for an agreement, NPS will determine whether the gathering fits in with the tribe's "traditional use" of a particular park or monument. The agency also will conduct an environmental review to ensure that gathering won't result in a significant adverse impact to the land at issue.

Once an agreement is approved, the tribe will be responsible for managing how its members gather and remove plants. Violations will be subject to potential prosecution or termination of an agreement.

Federal Register Notice:
Gathering of Certain Plants or Plant Parts by Federally Recognized Indian Tribes for Traditional Purposes (April 20, 20150

Join the Conversation