Tucson, AZ – In response to a National Park Service (NPS) rule finalized in 2016, Gathering of Certain Plants or Plant Parts by Federally Recognized Indian Tribes for Traditional Purposes (36 CFR 2.6), the Tohono O’odham Nation has requested to continue harvesting saguaro fruit and cholla buds in alignment with their traditional practices. These activities have occurred for millennia within the Sonoran Desert, including on ancestral lands now managed by Saguaro National Park.
Following the establishment of the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Monument in 1961 (later designated as a national park in 1994), the Tohono O’odham Nation and NPS staff worked together to support these traditional practices while protecting park resources. The 2016 rule has created a new framework for authorizing tribal harvest of plant materials by directing NPS units to specify proposed activities within an agreement and analyze impacts from the activities on park resources through an Environmental Assessment (EA).
Saguaro National Park has completed this EA, which will be posted to the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at:
“For more than 50 years, the National Park Service has enjoyed a collaborative relationship with the Tohono O’odham Nation”, stated Superintendent Leah McGinnis.“ By continuing the traditional harvest of plant materials, tribal members are exercising practices of their cultural heritage, which also gives NPS visitors an enriched understanding of the deep connections between people and the Sonoran Desert.”
Following the comment period, feedback will be evaluated to further analyze the full impacts of these activities on park resources and the public.