The gathering and removal of plants or plant parts for traditional purposes will now be allowed in national parks by members of federally recognized Indian tribes.

“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.

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. Commercial uses of gathered materials will still not be allowed.

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.

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 and a finding of no significant impact 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.

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