News Release

National Park Service Modifies Regulation for Gathering Plants for Federally-Recognized American Indian Tribes

Silver Sage

News Release Date: June 29, 2016

Contact: Jeffrey Olson, 202-208-6843

WASHINGTON – The National Park Service has modified the regulation governing the gathering of plants in national parks to allow members of federally recognized Indian tribes to gather and remove plants or plant parts for traditional purposes. The rule change was announced by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today at the National Congress of American Indians Mid-Year Conference in Spokane, Wash.

"The changes to the gathering rule support continuation of unique cultural traditions of American Indians and support the mission of the National Park Service," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "This also respects tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the tribes."

The changes to the regulation take effect 30 days after the rule is published in the Federal Register in the coming days. After that time, tribes will be able to request to enter into agreements to conduct gathering activities. Read the pre-published final rule here.

To be eligible under the rule, the tribe must have a traditional association to lands within the national park system and the plants must be gathered only for traditional purposes. The agreements between tribes and the National Park Service will identify what plants may be gathered and in what quantities, and be subject to permits that identify the tribal members who may conduct these activities. The rule retains the existing regulation that prohibits commercial uses of gathered materials.

Many parks in the national park system contain resources important to the continuation of American Indian cultures. Indian tribes have actively sought the ability to gather and use plant resources for traditional purposes such as basketry and traditional medicines while ensuring the sustainability of plant communities in parks. At the same time, park managers and law enforcement officers need clear guidance regarding their responsibilities for enforcing park regulations with respect to the use of park resources by American Indians. The regulation provides an approach to plant collecting by members of federally recognized tribes that can be applied across the national park system.

In drafting the modifications to the regulation, National Park Service staff met with or contacted more than 120 Indian tribes. Tribal consultation indicated that the approach taken in the regulation would address the need for gathering while respecting tribal sovereignty.

Most comments received during the review period were supportive of the proposed rule, while others raised questions about authority, environmental protection, and the collection of information deemed sensitive by tribes. The proposed rule was revised to address these concerns.

The final rule will require an Environmental Assessment (EA) and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for any agreement between a park and a traditionally associated tribe. The EA is a means to ensure that a targeted plant community can support traditional gathering.

Additionally, the rule will not abrogate, nullify, or diminish any rights to gather plants by any tribes that have gathering rights under treaty provisions, or through federal statute, or have a separate gathering agreement created under this rule.

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Last updated: June 29, 2016