SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — An agreement between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians could change next year.

Park officials are asking people to comment on the proposed amendment to the Plant Gathering Agreement. 

Under the current agreement, up to 36 permitted members of EBCI can gather and remove parts of the sochan plant from the Smokies using traditional means. The park said the amendment includes three changes.

  • Permitted tribal members would be able to choose between gathering a portion of the sochan leaf known as the turkey foot or gathering whole sochan leaf.
  • The park would change text about gathering activities near visitor centers, trailheads, campgrounds, and picnic areas. The amendment clarifies that tribal members cannot harvest within 80 feet of these areas.
  • The park would establish a sochan research area that would be off limits to gathering. The amendment also adds that tribal members cannot gather sochan from areas with standing water.

The park and EBCI made the original agreement on March 25, 2019.

Sochan, an edible plant, has distinctive yellow flowers.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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According to the amendment document, the park proposed the first amendment after tribal members told them sochan gathering practices vary -- some people and families gather the turkey foot, while others gather the whole leaf. 

Under the original agreement, tribal members could only gather the turkey foot.

The park said comments should be submitted through this online portal or sent by mail to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, ATTN: Environmental Planning and Compliance, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. 

The public comment period is open through Jan. 12, 2020.

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