iNat "Collection Guidelines"? (as in, taking things)

Yupppp thats the one. Thats what gets me too, is it isnt just the plant they want an invertebrate if its on the plant as well. Invertebrates actually clearly require a state level permit here (plus landowner permission).

I heard back from their advisor this morning, a ‘thanks for letting me know ill look into it and take appropriate action’.


That’s why I said with documentation. I’d want a letter/permit in hand from whatever agency/land owner is involved showing that my activity is legal. If I still had doubts and didn’t want to do the necessary inquiries myself, I’d say no.


Not only that, but if a permit is required usually you must have the permit in-hand at the time of collecting. All of my permits have a statement that they must be with me any time I am doing the permitted activity. All of my permits also contain a list of the personnel allowed to use it, so I would not be allowed to have some stranger collect for me.

Update: commented at the same time and I now see your comment saying basically the same thing.


Aye. Agreed. Here for the state they need a copy of my credentials and legal ID; so i am involved in obtaining the permit even if not the primary because ill be listed on it, named. I need a copy of it because i need it on me when working.

I only know a couple states processes, but from those, I would infer that I would want to see my name listed on permit as well, as able to collect what the person wished me to.

It is interesting i keep running into issues with people in botany. This is the second time in a month or so. The last interaction the person (known and part of an herbarium) was going to poach off my land, making me really happy i scramble that a bit in case i forget to click obscured. And now I know this person has a fast growing rep up in my area of being completely unethical; but thus far those in power to do something, have not. They will also message people on iNat asking for things.

I have never done anything in botany before; and these interactions have very much soured me to that field. I am a scientist and work in field; but entomology mostly and never botany. And in before “but not all botanists” - yes i know a lovily botanist as well, we instantly bonded over mutual distaste of such sour interactions with folk of questionable ethics.

I always want to help. Really I do. I just want it to be legal, and I want to be respected in the process. Ive not had any issues with Lepidoptera or Fungi folk, or bat folk. They mostly just want observations though which I am happy to share in detail (like an eastern red bat that overwinters here, my observations of him, i sent a longggg email to them full of detail!)

Science should be above board and cooperative, not “oh just do this/take this for me and itll be fine i pinki promise wink wink”

I say in my profile i am happy to help and feel free to message me, so i think I will edit that to make it clear I expect proper documentation if collection is involved. Maybe folk are reading that thinking I will happily run around grabbing everything; and I wont!


Received the same request for ghost pipes… Linked them to the website for the nature reserve the plants were located in and advised them to contact the science staff for the reserve to see if they would be willing to collect.


I believe that statement is basically equivalent to iNaturalist saying “if you’re going to collect things, follow the applicable laws and regulations”. A statement that the other rules don’t go away because you’re on Forest Service land, in other words.

More specifically, the relationship between state and federal laws in this context is a bit murky, so I would take the Forest Service statement to mean “we are interpreting the state laws related to collecting critters to apply on federal lands managed by the Forest Service”, i.e., they’re not interested in getting into some kind of jurisdictional micturition contest with the states.

I would not take that to mean that the Forest Service doesn’t have additional restrictions or permitting requirements separate from the states. For plants, I know that at least some regions / some national forests do have permitting requirements separate from and more restrictive than the states. I haven’t had a reason to look into the animal situation.

I also wouldn’t assume that the individual National Forests have the same understanding now as in a document (apparently) from the national offices of the Forest Service 19 years ago. The National Forests have some discretion in interpretation and the national office understanding may have changed in that time period, as well.

There are a lot of details to keep track of, hence my earlier recommendation that contacting the particular National Forest involved is the best course if there’s any uncertainty. Even if that National Forest’s interpretation is idiosyncratic or just plain wrong, they’re the ones who’ll be making the decision whether or not to hassle you about it.

1 Like unless i am reading this wrong, i think you do

The Forest Service does not have additional restrictions or permitting requirements on species designated as “Common Animals and Plants” per my original comment. “Common Animals and Plants” is a term defined by individual National Forests (an individual forest may exclude certain or all living plants, and require additional permits). I was not saying that there are never additional restrictions; I meant the lack of National Forest restrictions does not mean you are exempt from state restrictions.

I agree, though I think its more than that too. Certain activities are permitted on federal land that may not be permitted on non-federal land in the state. Albeit, these cases are rare. I think this statement is to indicate that this is not the case in this instance. It may also allow Federal Law Enforcement to enforce state laws on federal land.

I got the same message (I assume) - a few weeks ago already - I know it would be illegal for me to collect those plants where my observations were made (plus they are rare enough that I wouldn’t collect even if legal). But I asked them if it would be helpful to them if I take closeups of any insects or signs of insects. They never responded, not even a “not helpful but thanks”… so definitely made it seem sketchy to me.

I also got a message from someone (from same state according to their observations, just other end) who grows various Symphyotrichum species from seed in their garden and asked to collect and send a seed pod - and they also responded to my questions and seemed completely genuine, unlike the monotropa guys. I probably would have sent a seed pod if I actually knew how to identify the species they wanted - I don’t really trust the research grade on my one observation of it :P


Some National Forests do.

Some Forests may require permits for collecting “common animals and plants” defined colloquially. But if they do, they are removed form the legal category “Common Animals and Plants” and placed under a different category. I am NOT saying you can collect any common plant in any National Forest without a NF permit. I am saying you can collect officially designated “Common Animals and Plants” as defined by individual Forests without additional permits beyond what the state you are in requires.

In other words, a NF can require a permit for whatever it wants. To do so, it moves the designation from “Common” to “Sensitive”, these being legal terms, not biological or colloquial terms.

Not a botanist myself - but my impression is that botany students need to put a number of collected plants into their university’s herbarium to get credit? Or if not actual credit, maybe at least extra fame if they put rare stuff into their herbarium? Some of them definitely seem very keen on “collecting” everything that’s remotely rare…

I’ve never seen an official “Common Animals and Plants” list associated with the Forest Service. I am familiar with the Sensitive lists, so I can be a bit more specific:

Some National Forests do require permits for collecting plants that are not designated Sensitive, at least in some contexts. For the National Forests I’m familiar with, collection for research is one of those contexts.

There is no list because it’s the catch-all category. Meaning a species with no federal protection (T/E species, Migratory Bird, etc.), no state protection (state T/E species, hunting regulated species), and no local NF protection (i.e., the NF has not opted to give the species special status). Again, a NF can grant local protection to anything it deems fit (even species that many may consider common).

Agreed. Research activities and commercial use require Special Use Permits. However, “visits that involve study or collections for one day or less may be authorized without permit” per USFS policy.

I want to make it clear, I am in no way arguing for the ethicality or practicality of the policy. I’m just trying to explain what the policy is.

1 Like

My understanding of the situation, and my recommendation to anyone reading this thread, is that using this statement:

as a guideline for collecting animals and plants on National Forest lands does not mean that Forest Service staff will agree that your activities are allowed. Correct as an interpretation of official policy or not, this is misleading as a guide to behavior.

I don’t think trying to dive into all the policy details here is helpful. If you want to know what a National Forest considers to require a permit, ask them.

Sigh. My original comment was this:

My whole point was that permits are potentially required even when the National Forest does not require additional permits. I can see why @zdanko might assume National Forests don’t require permits, because they don’t for certain species. I was trying to point out that the state the NF is in can require permits. I should have also pointed out that National Forests also require permits for “Sensitive Species” and for activities falling under “Special Use”.

No where did I advocate for collecting without doing your due diligence to make sure you are conforming to federal, state, and local policy.


Well, this is a thread focused on activities falling under “Special Use”… :-)

@elias105 @kerrycrax @lythronax246 FWIW - I did send a note to help@inat as suggested, and I did say there were others who got the same message who posted on a thread I made here. iNat is looking into it because it is indeed not okay that the person is saying (effectively) that ‘according to iNat you can collect’ and they are not happy about that. So if the message you got said something to that effect, you may want to pass it on - or least just this is FYI that iNat is looking into it and knows this thread exists.

Thanks all for your help; I appreciate the feedback as I wasn’t sure what level of action was necessary, and feel better now!

I think the convo that flowed out about national forests is also a good one, as it seems many were unaware of how they support state rules, so that in fact some forests you do need permits so it ended up getting some good info out there too :)

So yeah…thanks everyone! :)


and requires less than a day for collections.

Again, I’m not advocating that @sunguramy make the collection. In fact, I would not if I were them (especially since we’ve already established that state permits would be required). But I’m also not going to make up permitting requirements that don’t exist.


@swampster @sunguramy @annkatrinrose @bendunsford I misunderstood what I remembered from a reference I read some time ago - from what I remember now, you don’t need a permit to collect insects in National Forests (that aren’t protected). I have no clue on plants.

Anyway, the thread is solved, so if that turns out to be false also, please let me know privately, I guess, because that is important information for me.