September 8th, 2011
It is reported that the National Park Service has proposed a new rule that would allow American Indian tribes to remove plants and minerals from national parks for traditional uses.
The document, dated March 25, was stamped “confidential.” It states that NPS intends to authorize agreements with federally recognized Indian tribes to allow plants or minerals to be used for traditional purposes. The agreements would allow the continuation of cultural traditions on ancestral lands that are now part of the NPS estate. The rule would also provide opportunities for tribal youth, the agency and the public to learn about tribal traditions without compromising park values or management, it said.
NPS spokesman Jeffrey Olson confirmed that the agency is developing a new rule to address tribal use of park resources. He said the draft rule has changed since March and may continue to change as it is reviewed. The public will have 60 days to comment on the rule once it is published in the Federal Register.
Olson said the rule follows several consultation meetings with tribal leaders in past years, but that the proposal is in its early stages and has not been reviewed by the Interior Department or the White House.
“It began with [NPS Director] Jon [Jarvis] talking with tribal folks and making a commitment to listen and see if there can’t be a compromise reached.”
But the proposal has riled Park Service employees who maintain the agency is violating its founding 1916 Organic Act in the name of political correctness, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
Ruch said the agency’s proposal raises an emotional issue, but that overturning the current rule should require the consent of Congress, which has expressly allowed tribal plant gathering in at least eight park units.