Source: UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 15, 2005
Project End Date
Sep 14, 2008
Grant Year
Project Director
Lewis, C. E.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences
Non Technical Summary
The harvest of wild Alaskan beneficial plants for personal and commercial use is uncontrolled. Policies and regulatory laws need to be developed to protect the plants, traditional and commercial harvesters.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The Alaska Ethnobotany Research Project addresses the recent interest in commercialization of pharmaceutical and nutriceutical plants. In other parts of the country commercialization of traditional use plants has almost wiped out some species. Unfortunately, their commercialization rules have been developed after the disaster occurred. This Project focuses on Alaska state lands. The Project will research what regulations have worked best in other parts of the world to join two uses of wild plants-that of protecting traditional use (and intellectual rights); and ethical commercialization of these plants. Harmony between the land, the Alaska Native Peoples, entrepreneurs, and other people and animals can be reached if the research can provide mediation and consensus. Collaborations with tribal leaders, non-timber forest product working groups, and the federal government will enable discussions and actions for valuable protection and usage of Alaskan ethnobotanical plants. Educational research and demonstrations are integral to this project. As rules are being developed, educational research will discover what has and has not been done in Alaska about ethnobotanical plants. Demonstration gardens will need plants traditionally used by Alaska Natives. Research into the protocol for growing these plants includes harvest time for seeds, seed cleaning requirements, seed germination requirements, and plant habitat needs. Throughout the project is the on-going need to educate people about ethical harvesting. Presentations to all sorts of groups need to be hands-on and interpretive. Research into Alaska Native Peoples intellectual rights as it applies to presenting information is necessary. Working with tribal people as consultants and participants will enable the State of Alaska to guide commercialization of ethnobotanicals in a harmonious way.
Project Methods
The Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture, Plant Materials Center (PMC) along with the State of Alaska Department of Law will research and review rules and regulations defined by other states or foreign countries. Departmental regulations and policies will be developed through normal state procedures, on acquisition of traditional use plants and other commercially unregulated species-based on the best available information already developed and being developed in the United States and other nations and with consultation with Alaska Native Peoples. Accountability will be built into the regulations to enable management and to ensure that permits have conditions and violations can be assessed. The PMC will research State needs regarding all (including environmental and socioeconomic) aspects and impacts of commercial development of these resources. Potentially economically important Alaska plant species will be selected to harvest, develop plant growth protocol, and plant for demonstration and educational plots. The PMC will develop and publish manuals for collectors of these species, on the art of efficient, effective, and sustainable wild harvest and/or growth of these species. These will be modeled after manuals in use elsewhere. Through collaboration with The Alaska Native Knowledge Network, U.S. Forest Service, and others, the PMC will provide education programs for individual and commercial harvesters. The PMC will utilize both in-house expertise and collaboration with the state Department of Law to do the research, education, and development of regulations.

Progress 09/15/05 to 09/14/08

OUTPUTS: The Alaska Ethnobotany Research II Project was coordinated by the Alaska Plant Materials Center (PMC). The PMC collaborated with the State's Division of Mining, Land, and Water, State Department of Law, State Division of Forestry (DOF), State Department of Subsistence, and many Alaska Native People, subsistence users, commercial entrepreneurs, and personal use Alaskan's to determine the quantity of native plants allowable for commercial harvest on State lands. With the advice and guidance of this group, rules and regulations for commercial harvest were made into state law [AS 38.05.850 (DNR-Alaska Land Act-Permits) 11 AAC 112 (DNR/ACMP-Statewide Standards)]. This generally consistent determination (GCD) authorizes the harvest for commercial purposes of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Examples of NTFPs include but are not limited to: mushrooms, conks, boughs, cones, leaves, burls, landscaping transplants, roots, flowers, and fruits. This GCD refers only to harvest done in accordance with the species, quantities, seasonal and regional restrictions, and harvesting methods (including restrictions on mechanical or motorized tools) specified in the Alaska Non-Timber Forest Products Harvest Manual, dated April 2, 2008 or subsequent revisions. Through this Project the PMC researched and wrote the Harvest Manual. Since this Manual is now part of State law, plants are protected from over-harvesting, people are taught how to harvest in an environmentally safe way, and those plants with religious significance or rare status are protected. Through a change of grant request, the PMC started an ADA approved Ethnobotany or traditional use garden for educational use and for plant increase for other cultural centers. This garden was designed by an interpretive landscape architect who utilized the cultural and ecological regions of Alaska for the construction. The PMC and DOF collaborated to produce an on-line version of landscape plants for Alaska which, when used with the PMC's Ethnobotany garden as an example, will enable people to understand how to grow and utilize native plants in their own projects. During this Project many plants were researched to determine how to harvest and how harvest affects the plants. An Alaska Plant Profile publication on Bog Blueberry was written and published on a new PMC webpage. This webpage also includes the Harvest Manual, a power-point presentation on Ethnobotany and Non-Timber Forest Products in Alaska, and the Alaska Birch Syrupmakers' Association BEST PRACTICES for Producing Quality Birch Syrup. Several educational presentations were provided by the PMC, including a long-distance seminar with the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Ethnobotany. This seminar was attended by adult students throughout the State. The PMC also provided assistance to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Cancer Program for their book "Traditional Food Guide for Alaska Native Cancer Survivors" and worked with them to choose culturally significant plants for their garden that they could grow easily. PARTICIPANTS: Individuals who worked on this research project were Agronomists Peggy Hunt, Donald Ross, and Stoney Wright from the State of Alaska's (SOA) Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Plant Materials Center; SOA Natural Resource Managers and Specialists Wyn Menefee, Joe Joyner, Clark Cox, Stephen Bethune, Frank Maxwell, Roselynn Smith, and Melissa Head with DNR, Division of Mining, Land, and Water; Attorneys Molly Benson and Christina Otto from the SOA's Department of Law; and Landscape Architect Bill Evans with (SOA) DNR, Division of Parks and Recreation. Laborers from the PMC dug up and transplanted plants for the Ethnobotany ADA Garden. Matt Amsden, Territory North Contracting, was the construction contractor for the Ethnobotany Garden. Peggy Hunt was the lead for this project. She managed the grant; gave direction for the Project; started and maintained discussions between all the above people; gave presentations; coordinated the revisions of the Harvest Manual, the development and revision of Alaska State Statues and Administrative Codes, and the NTFP permit application and termination report; developed liaisons with many researchers, harvesters, and Alaska Native Peoples; researched Ethnobotany papers and sustainable techniques for harvesting native plants; researched the affect of harvest on Devil's Club and several other plants; was the on-site Project Manager for the construction of the Ethnobotany Garden; decided which plants would be planted in the Ethnobotany Garden and other institutions; and managed the budget and reports. Donald Ross researched, wrote publications, assisted with input on the Harvest Manual and reporting requirements, managed the laborers for the blueberry exclosures, harvested cultural plants after obtaining the correct permissions, and helped with the transplanting in the Garden. Stoney Wright was the liaison between the multiple State entities responsible for money management and gave advice as needed. The Natural Resource Managers, Specialists, and Attorneys, and experts from SOA Department of Forestry, Alaska Native People, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Tribes, Harvesters, SOA Department of Subsistence, SOA State Council on the Arts, Traditional Native Arts Program, Cultural Centers and Museums Consortium, Made in Alaska Program, SOA Fish and Game, SOA Division of Habitat Management and Permitting, the SOA DNR Deputy Commissioner (Dick LeFebvre) and public commenter's collaborated with the PMC to finalize the Harvest Manual and the changes in Alaska State Law. Bill Evans designed the interpretive concept for the Ethnobotanical ADA Garden and managed the layout of the stakes and construction details. Many other researchers, agency professionals, harvesters, and indigenous peoples provided input for the Project. Professional development and training was provided via seminars, workshops, and presentations both at the PMC and at various conferences. TARGET AUDIENCES: This project has an impact on many different audiences. The project has involved the public, Alaska Native Peoples, Agency personnel, school teachers and children in controversy, interpretation, traditional knowledge, subsistence and personal use rights vs commercial endeavors, landscaping with native plants, harvest techniques and how much of a plant in its community should be harvested without harming the plant's survival or the environment as a whole. This project has opened the minds of many of these people so that they question their own actions or the government's actions. It has had an impact on people from very rural Alaska, living in places that can only be reached by plane. Many other people that this project has affected are economically disadvantaged or indigenous people. The development of the Harvest Manual, the State's rules and regulations, and finally the State's laws on how much of any one plant can be commercially harvested on State owned lands involved many subsets of audiences. The project has made an impact on how plants should be sustainably harvested and has created a tool for the State to use to regulate harvest. The primary affect from this project is changes in knowledge. This includes education for harvesters, public, and school audiences about plant usage, the worth of various plants in our environment, and respect for plants and the people who traditionally used and are still using them. Ethnobotany Research II is not the final stage for this project. The Ethnobotany ADA Garden at the PMC is and will be a showcase for how-to's for landscaping, education about traditional and current uses of Alaska native plants, and be a source of plants for other cultural sites and schools. With it being built to ADA standards, anyone can use it. It can be a place for elders to teach their families about plants, a self-guided interpretive location for the general public to view and learn about Alaska native plants, or a field trip site for schools to come to learn about Alaska cultures, plants, ecosystems, and plant cultivation. Research into harvest protocols for fungus, moss, blueberry, devil's club, ferns, spruce, rose root, etc. has enabled this project to produce publications and presentations for audiences on the web and through workshops. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: The funds for this Project were redirected towards creating the ADA Ethnobotany Garden, Phase I at the Plant Materials Center. This was because the projected costs for the Department of Law and the Division of Mining, Land, and Water were much greater than the actual cost. The University of Alaska Fairbanks, Office of Grant & Contract Administration, Grants Management Officer, Maren Boyack and Director, G. Maggie Griscavage, stated "Based upon the nature of the request, and as there is no change in the scope of work, the University is able to approve the proposed change." This letter is filed with the official records for this award.

The Alaska Ethnobotany Research II Project created the foundation for regulated harvest of traditional use plants commercially harvested on state lands. Because of the data, research, and compilation that went into creating the "State of Alaska Non-Timber Forest Products Harvest Manual For Commercial Harvest on State-Owned Lands" the State of Alaska has a product that can enable the Division of Mining, Land, and Water (DMLW) to feel comfortable about allowing small harvests through an over-the-counter permitting system. Before the Harvest Manual was created, it was unknown how much of any one plant could be harvested commercially without impacts on subsistence and personal use, or on the plant community itself. Through the research that went into which plants can be harvested, how to harvest sustainably, and how much to harvest, the state and people of Alaska can be informed about balancing commerce, subsistence, and sound ecological harvest of ethnobotanical plants and non-timber forest products. By placing the Harvest Manual into the state's law on permissible harvest, the control has been created. Through many discussions with stake-holders, Alaska Native Peoples, commercial entities, and interested citizens, the ideas and results for this Harvest Manual came into fruition. Education, in many forms, is taking place and will continue to involve people throughout the state. The Public Information Centers, run by the DMLW, are visited daily by an average of a hundred people. Here the Harvest Manual is available for viewing. Presentations, web presence, calls, and e-mails from and for people throughout the state are drawing attention to this publication. Since blueberry harvest is a touchy subject for many, the monograph on blueberries has enabled people to understand the various types of blueberries, their ecology, and how to harvest sustainably. This publication is also on the web. With the interest from many cultural and educational institutions to create traditional use gardens on their lands, the PMC started on Phase I of an ADA ethnobotanical garden to showcase traditional use plants from each culture and region throughout Alaska. Through the efforts of a certified, interpretive landscape architect from the State Division of Parks and Recreation, the ADA Ethnobotanical Garden's concept, construction plan, and construction for Phase I were accomplished during this Project. Many people stopped by to ask questions and several teachers said they would bring their students to the PMC for field trips. The Garden also shows which plants are available for various institutions and enables education about plant propagation protocol and how people can cultivate species for alternative harvest in wild-simulated beds. These gardens display native plant identification and usage for the public, the native people's children, and for potential growers. This helps keep traditions alive while protecting them also. Several institutions have requested transplants for their grounds. As part of the Ethnobotany Research Project, many species have been grown for increase for these groups.


  • Larsen, Jessica H. 2007. Balancing Commerce, Subsistence, and Sustainability - Ethnobotany and Non-Timber Forest Products in Alaska. Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture, Plant Materials Center, Palmer, AK. 16 pp. n.
  • Larsen, Jessica H., Peggy Hunt, Donald Ross, Division of Mining, Land, and Water. 2008. Alaska Non-Timber Forest Products Harvest Manual For Commercial Harvest on State-Owned Lands. Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture, Plant Materials Center, Palmer, AK. 41 pp. pdf l2008.pdf
  • Ross, Donald R. 2008. Bog Blueberry/ Alpine Blueberry, Alaska Plant Profiles. Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Agriculture, Plant Materials Center, Palmer, AK. 3pp. ueberry.pdf

Progress 09/15/06 to 09/14/07

OUTPUTS: This research is the second stage of a three part project. Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFP's) in Alaska have been harvested since indigenous peoples in Alaska relied on them for subsistence. The beginning stage of the Ethnobotany Project identified which NNTP's in Alaska have the potential for commercial harvesting. Three sections of the State of Alaska's government joined together to create a Harvest Manual for use in managing commercial harvest on state land. The Division of Mining, Land, and Water (DMLW) is the permitting agency for commercial harvesting on state-managed land. DMLW Natural Resource Managers and Specialists provided the input for the regulations they felt were needed in the Harvest Manual. The Division of Agriculture's Plant Materials Center (PMC) provided the knowledge base for the state's plants, with University Agronomists who research and evaluate native plant ecology, growth, and health and work with NTFP's on a regular basis. The Department of Law provided guidance about how other states regulate commercial harvests and researched the legality of the regulation changes proposed for the state. The Harvest Manual defines the line between small-scale, low-impact commercial harvests and large-scale, potentially damaging commercial harvests. The process of creating an Over-The-Counter Permit, End-of-Season Report, and Harvest Manual with limits on harvest amounts that were sustainable, and legal changes to the regulations was enabled by weekly meetings with the main participants. Many other people and groups contributed to the Harvest Manual including Alaska indigenous peoples. The public is now invited to comment on the proposed documents. A monograph for each of the over 100 plants and fungi designated in the Harvest Manual is part of the educational aspect of this project. The monographs detail each plant's Latin name, common names, family, synonyms, distribution, habitat, ecology, altitude, life form, range, similar species and common misidentification errors, parts harvested, harvest area, harvest time, harvest method, regeneration, response to harvest, and points of concern. As appropriate, the uses for the plant will be listed - this is with the traditional ecological knowledge being accredited. Research on response to harvest for many of the plants is ongoing, as is developing protocols for growing plants that are excluded from the manual because of their vulnerability to over-harvest. Presentations, public gardens, and plant walks provide extension for this project. One of the agronomists was part of a team of teachers for an Ethnobotany long-distance course through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Because of this project people from all over the state are collaborating to educate harvesters about sustainable harvesting methods. The Harvest Manual, the Dear Alaskan Letter, Changes to State Regulations are on the Division of Mining, Land, and Water's 'Hot Topics.' site for public review. PARTICIPANTS: Individuals who worked on this project were Agronomists Peggy Hunt, Donald Ross, and Stoney Wright from the State of Alaska's (SoA) Plant Materials Center (PMC); Natural Resource Managers and Specialists Wyn Menefee, Joe Joyner, Clark Cox, Stephen Bethune, Frank Maxwell, Roselynn Smith, and Melissa Head with the SoA's Division of Mining, Land, and Water; and Attorneys Molly Benson and Christina Otto from the SoA's Department of Law. Peggy Hunt, Agronomist II, was the lead for this project. She managed the grant, gave direction for the Project, started and maintained discussions between all the above people, gave presentations, coordinated the revisions of the Harvest Manual and accompanying permits and regulations, developed liaisons with many researchers, harvesters, and Alaska Native Peoples, and researched Ethnobotany papers and sustainable techniques for harvesting native plants. Donald Ross, Agronomist I, wrote monographs and met with NTFP harvesters, agencies, Alaska Native Peoples, researchers, and personal use and subsistence use peoples. Stoney Wright, Agronomist III, provided plant knowledge and guidance for the Project. The Natural Resource Managers and Specialists met to review public comments with the Agronomists and Attorneys, to give guidance in the regulatory process, to provide knowledge of adjudication and past permitting efforts from the State, and to follow through from their perspective on the Harvest Manual. The Attorneys provided guidance on legal matters. Partner organizations include the Sitka Tribe's Kayaani Commission, Chickaloon Tribe, Global Food Alaska Organization, Homer Demonstration Forest, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Alaska Berry Growers, Pacific Northwest Forest Practitioners, Non-Timber Forest Products Working Group, National Network of Forest Practitioners, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Supernatural Teas, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Birch Syrupmakers Association, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Yupik Way, Alaska Coastal Management Program, SoA Division of Forestry, U.S. and SoA Department of Subsistence, SoA Division of Habitat Management and Permitting, and SoA Fish and Game. Many researchers, agency professionals, harvesters, and indigenous peoples provided input for the Project. Professional development and training was provided by the Project through University of Alaska Fairbanks seminars and through workshops at the PMC. TARGET AUDIENCES: Target audiences for this Project include those who either harvest or want to commercially harvest Alaska native plants on State lands. This education emphasizes on how to harvest plants sustainably, where it is legal, and how much can be harvested without the ecology being injured. Some of these people come from very rural Alaska, living in places that can only be reached by plane. Many other people that this Project affects are economically disadvantaged or indigenous people. Fostering respect for plants and their cultural usages is achieved through conferences, small informational meetings, hands-on, inquiry based presentations at schools and outdoor venues. By assisting Alaska Native Centers to grow historical plants in their gardens, this project is having an impact upon all ages. Researching the protocols for growing vulnerable plants encourages people to grow them - not harvest them from the wild. This research is found interesting and productive to researchers, gardeners, agency professionals, and indigenous people.

The Ethnobotany Project is an ecologically responsible project. By developing the harvest manual and plant monographs harvesting knowledge is available. This information includes how harvest affects species and ecosystems, the distribution and abundance of target species, how much harvest is actually occurring, how the products are processed and utilized, information on the market, pricing and economic value of the plant. This project is economically viable. Its results allow diversification in the state's work force, strengthens local and rural economies, and creates partnerships and community-based efforts. This project is socially and culturally acceptable. It recognizes and considers the historical and cultural ties with the land and plants held by Native peoples. It respects the cultural significance placed on the plants. It listens to, learns from, and recognizes the traditional knowledge of those who have sustainably collected plants for many years. The business of commercially harvesting NTFP's is not going to "go away" - the demand will keep growing. With this project, creative, incentive-based solutions are being provided to enable commercial harvesters to realize the cultural, spiritual, personal, and social value of a product.


  • No publications reported this period

Progress 09/15/05 to 09/14/06

Agronomists from the Alaska Plant Materials Center, attorneys from the Alaska Department of Law, natural resource specialists in permitting from the Alaska Division of Mining, Land and Water, harvesters with commercial non-timber forest products companies and cottage industries, members of Alaska Native tribes, and members of the National Network of Forest Practitioners met to discuss the growing non-timber forest product industry and regulation needs. Alaska Department of Law developed a substantial spreadsheet of rules and regulations regarding commercial harvest of native plants from most of the United States and several foreign countries, along with a succinct point paper about the need for regulation of commercial harvest of non-timber forest product species. Extensive internet research uncovered numerous helpful databases, organizations, working groups, electronic mailing lists, and informational sites that pertain to the work of the Alaska Ethnobotany Project and assist greatly with its research. A list of plants with commercial and/or ethnobotanical value that are found in Alaska was begun and assessment criteria were created. Ten ethnobotanically significant species were planted in a demonstration garden at the Plant Materials Center for educational and research purposes, and as the initiation of the process to incorporate similar gardens at Native cultural and educational centers. Together with the Traditional Healing Department of the Southcentral Foundation (Alaska Native Medical Center), a list of forty-nine species of medicinal plants to propagate was created for a future ethnobotanical garden at their site. Agronomists at the Plant Materials Center provided education about harvest and propagation of the medicinal plant devils club to nine interested individuals and similar information for many other traditional-use plants (berries, mushrooms, dogwood, willow and ginseng) was provided to several people. Editing assistance was given for a harvest manual for the sustainable and ethical gathering of several Alaska native plants written by the owner of a small commercial wild tea company. The manual and the associated permit application were then approved by the permitting authority in the Division of Mining, Land and Water for the company, Alaska Supernatural Teas. Public comment was offered on other permit applications for commercial harvest of non-timber forest products received by the Division of Mining, Land and Water. World and local events pertaining to commercial harvest of native plants were monitored throughout the year and pertinent information was disseminated.

The project is a vital element for the Division of Mining, Land and Water and their need to issue permits responsibly. Controversy swirls around these non-timber forest product species and the sustainability of their harvest. The educational portion of this project is important to enable harmony between the many varied positions. During this impact year, many people were made aware of the potential risks to the states ecology if rules and regulations were not improved for this burgeoning new industry in the State. The people on the Alaska Ethnobotany Project are in a position to positively impact the effect of commercial harvest of native Alaska plants on State land. Part of the viability of the project lies in the important contacts made between the Department of Law, Division of Mining, Land and Water, small scale and large-scale harvesters, Alaska Native peoples and commissions, and the Non-Timber Forest Product working group of the National Network of Forest Practitioners. This was evidenced at the Alaska Forum for Forest Practitioners, held in Anchorage in November 2005 in cooperation with the National Network of Forest Practitioners, which brought together Native peoples, harvesters, and agency representatives for discussion of the issues surrounding non-timber forest products in the State. Many relationships important to the progress of the project were formed.


  • Benson, M. 2005. The Need for Regulation of Commercial Harvest of Native Plants on State Lands. Presentation for the Alaska State Commissioner of Natural Resources, the Division of Mining, Land and Water, the Department of Natural Resources, the Office of Project Management and Permitting, and Federal and State Subsistence Coordination. Anchorage, Alaska. September 15, 2005.
  • Hunt, P. 2005. The Alaska Ethnobotany Project. PowerPoint Presentation for the Alaska Forum for Forest Practitioners. Anchorage, Alaska. November 3-5, 2005.
  • Menefee, W. 2005. Alaska Public Land Management Policy on Special Forest Products. Presentation for the Alaska Forum for Forest Practitioners. Anchorage, Alaska. November 3-5, 2005.
  • Benson, M. 2005. The Need for Regulation of Commercial Harvest of Native Plants on State Lands. Alaska Department of Law Point Paper.