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National Park Service Proposes Rule For Tribal Gathering and Removal of Plants

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A proposed rule that would allow members of federally recognized American Indian tribes to gather and remove plants for traditional purposes within U.S. national parks was published in the federal register on Monday. The rule would modify current regulations against it.

The National Park Service, in drafting the rule, contacted more than 120 Indian tribes and acknowledged that tribes lacked access to resources that sustain their cultures.

Loretta Jackson-Kay, cultural director of the Hualapai Tribe in Arizona, told The Associated Press she was amenable toward the rule, but was concerned about environment assestments, which are made public and require tribes to share what they gathered and how they used the plants.

"We'll just have to wait and see how the Park Service responds to individual tribes," she told the wire service. "I'm glad this has come about. We've been having meetings about it over the past five years."

According to a NPS press release, the gathering and removal allowed by the rule would be governed by agreements entered into between the National Park Service and the tribes, and would also be subject to permits that identify the tribal members who may conduct these activities.

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

The rule does not apply to the general public. The public may gather fruit and nuts from certain parks with permission, The AP said.