NPS reopens comment period for rule on tribal plant gathering

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

The National Park Service has reopened the comment period 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 rule, which was announced in April, 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 at the time. “It also supports the mission of the National Park Service and the continuation of unique cultural traditions of American Indians.”

The comment period closed July 20 but the agency decided to reopen it in order to "give the public additional time to review and comment on the proposal," a notice published in the Federal Register today stated. The new deadline is September 28.

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.

"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," the agency said in a notice that was published in the Federal Register on April 20.

Federal Register Notices:
Gathering of Certain Plants or Plant Parts by Federally Recognized Indian Tribes for Traditional Purposes-Reopening of Public Comment Period (August 12, 2015)
Gathering of Certain Plants or Plant Parts by Federally Recognized Indian Tribes for Traditional Purposes (April 20, 2015)

Related Stories
National Park Service proposes rule for tribal gathering of plants (4/20)

Join the Conversation