Thursday, September 02, 2010

The ethics of wildcrafting

In blatant noncompliance (or perhaps misinterpretation) of its own leave no trace policy, national park managers have been allowing Native Americans to harvest wild plants and roots from parks, according to a letter from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) submitted to the Department of the Interior in August. The letter, which requested Interior conduct a formal investigation into “extensive violations to federal regulations,” cited several cases of illegal wildcrafting – the practice of gathering wild plants from their native habitat – in Zion, Bryce and Pipe Springs national parks. It also pointed to a 2009 incident in Yosemite, where the acting superintendent told some Indians that they could “take any plant they wished and did not need either a permit, or to report what or how much they had taken.” (If only Monsanto were so generous.) Park Service regulations prohibit “possessing, destroying, injuring, removing, digging, or disturbing plants from their natural state” within all national parks, yet permissions in the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA) grant Native Americans the right to gather plants from public lands for cultural and religious practices. Confusion over which law supersedes the other is partly to blame for the current uproar....more

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