Forest ThreatNet

Volume 12, Issue 2 - Spring 2018

Researchers and Tribes Seek the Sweet Spot in Sweetgrass Harvests

Sweetgrass gatherers work in a research plot in Acadia National ParkSweetgrass, native to North America and found in wet habitats, is prized by Maine Indian basketmakers. The Wabanaki people, who comprise the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Mi'kmaq tribes and who have cultural ties to the area now known as Acadia National Park, have faced limits and challenges on lands that were once traditional sweetgrass harvest sites. The National Park Service has recently modified regulations to once again allow the Wabanaki to gather plants within park boundaries, pending a new agreement to ensure the sustainability of the resource. In collaboration with Wabanaki gatherers, Center research biologist Michelle Baumflek is a lead researcher on a project that will help guide sustainable harvests based on tribal input and observations from test plots in the park. So far, results seem to support the Wabanaki people’s belief that traditional harvests are not detrimental to sweetgrass populations. “We’re trying to really think about different ways to gather knowledge,” says Baumflek. She adds that the work in Acadia National Park has “raised a hope that we can do shared research projects where everybody is respected and valued.” Read more about the project in an article from the Bangor Daily News

Pictured: Sweetgrass gatherers work in a research plot in Acadia National Park. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Greenlaw, Bangor Daily News.

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