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

State of Alabama requires state level permit for invertebrates, our national forests follow state requirements, so yes, here, you need a permit for insects. This is somewhat newish; they started cracking down about six or so years ago is my understanding. Ive not done much in national forests personally, but for national parks we have always needed both our state permit and NP permission as well.


Requisite I Am Not A Lawyer and I haven’t been to Alabama in years disclaimers. And like @zdanko I only deal with insects. But since NF collecting is relied on by many entomologists across the country, I’d like to continue this line of inquiry.

I’m guessing @sunguramy is referring to this sort of law?

In my experience, the “for propagation or scientific purposes” clause is usually the magic sauce where the enforcement rubber meets the road. For protected species, yes, permits will matter. For National Park land, yes, permits will matter. It does look like AL now wants teachers to buy a permit for their schoolkids, which is something I haven’t seen much in other states. But for incidental non-commercial non-protected species in National Forest or private land, I’ve found it’s rare to find an official who even wants to sell you a permit for occasional recreational collecting of a few flies. “Scientific purposes” collecting is usually interpreted as repeated or exhaustive sampling (e.g., leaving traps out, sampling every week for a month, broad-taxa surveys, etc). Not to put words in their mouth, but I think this is a point @swampster was trying to make, too.

I just did a surface-level web search and couldn’t even turn up an application for an AL scientific collecting permit that applied to NF land and not other jurisdictions (like this: Can you share where you get a AL SCP that applies to NFs? Even doesn’t mention a blanket ban on recreational collecting of inverts. Thanks!


Our permit is through ALDCNR
(ALAPARK is our state park system.)

There is a looooong list of rules. And yes, even teachers need one if collecting.

The standard SCP (scientific collection permit) is needed prior to attempting to obtain a permit for state or federal listed species.

A holder of a valid SCP must also have written permission from the landowner or be accompanied
by the landowner or his/her agent before collecting anything. (This includes State and/or Public Lands, and in cases of leasing, the actual owner must give permission). To my understanding this is where it covers National Forests - which as above, you ask that forest. It’s a catchall that ‘you must have permission from the owner’ - and the owner (NF) generally won’t give you permission without the SCP, so it’s a circle and just get the SCP :)

Notification of collections must be made 48 hours in advance of said collection. (there is an email to report to listed on the permit)

TN the permits are through TWRA (no idea about plants there)

ETA: you say it’s been years since been to Alabama; they started caring about inverts right before I started here, so like…6-ish? years ago. So if it’s been that long, that’s why :) They aren’t that great at advertising it either I agree. But people who do research here (and actually keep up with requirements) know about it.

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Yeah, I haven’t been to Alabama since 2013 so the norms may have changed with that 2016 law. But I’ll just point out that it sounds like your paradigm is based on a very proactively limited interpretation of the scientific collecting law. It’s good to protect yourself and stay far from the edge of legality (and I can imagine that your employer is preemptively trying to protect itself by teaching folks to adhere to those norms), but it might not actually be applicable for everyone reading this thread. I just read through a bunch of that 81 page “Laws Relating to Conservation and Natural Resources” on the ALDCNR page ( and the only regulation that seems relevant to non-protected insects is the one I already listed (9-11-321). Which again depends on the interpretation of scientific collecting and whether one is engaging in it.

Academia is a system that rewards and pedestals knowing and following arcane knowledge and paperwork. We biologists are experts who know and care about our subjects, so we’re also often quite good at policing ourselves and covering our bases to the nth degree. But sometimes it gets absurd: I’ve gotten permits to collect somewhere and reflected that I am the only person on the planet who could confidently identify the species I collected and thus verify that I obeyed the rules. Which is silly. I’ve had to explain to rangers, Customs, and Fish & Wildlife officers why I’m bothering to show them paperwork for a few non-protected dead flies. Some states have even managed to accidentally lock out all collecting because there is simply no legal form of take left for common insects-- the law had been written so proscriptive as to include them, but nobody had jurisdiction to give you a collecting license for “non-game” or non-threatened flies. Now, I am by nature a nature-respecting and rule-following individual and was trained at institutions that also valued this, so I follow the regulations, but I’ve noticed over the years that scientists are usually the ones who throw up the most hurdles that get in the way of other scientists getting stuff done (need I mention Reviewer No. 2?). Everybody else usually doesn’t know and doesn’t care. Let’s keep that in mind.


You can feel however you want to feel.

You asked, I answered (in short form).

Bottom line: ALDCNR has said they include invertebrates in SCP; which is why we list them on our permit. It is a one page form that would take less time to fill out than it took the somewhat ranty post above to be written. Yes there are pages of rules that go with it, but they all boil to mostly general categories of:

  • Dont poach, ask the landowner and be polite
  • Take care to not transfer hazards site to site (fungal infections, etc), basically keep your stuff clean
  • let them know the area youll be working in so there can be general track of whos doing what where

Rules that if one is such an ethical and good scientist, things that one already follows. I suppose could argue letting someone know; but if you dont keep track of where you do field work then how do you write up the research LOL, everyone I know keeps track of locations - to a higher level than they expect.

Sorry if you dont like the answer or dont think they have a right because no one else could possibly know or care or whatever.

Scientists, biologists, are not gods and sadly not all have a sense of ethics or morals. It is dangerous to put ourselves on pedestals.


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