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Seneca Nation commits to native-only landscaping; tribes increasingly restoring trees, plants

  • Native Plantings-1.jpg

    In this June 26, 2014 photo, Ken Parker, native plant consultant for the Seneca Indian Nation, poses outside the William Seneca administration building on the Cattaraugus Reservation in western New York. Parker is helping to implement the Senecas' new policy of using only indigenous plants in public landscaping on Seneca territories as a way to preserve culture and the environment. (AP Photo/Carolyn Thompson) (The Associated Press)

  • Native Plantings-2.jpg

    In this June 26, 20014 photo, gardens of native plants grow outside the William Seneca administration building on the Seneca Indian Nation's Cattaraugus Reservation in western New York. Tribal leaders recently adopted a policy to use only indigenous plants in public landscaping, replacing manicured grass with witch hazel, wild blueberries and other plants significant to Seneca culture. By Carolyn Thompson. (The Associated Press)

The Seneca Indian Nation is using only indigenous plants and trees in its public landscaping.

The western New York tribe is believed to be the first to formalize a practice that tribes throughout the country are embracing as a way to preserve Native American culture and the environment.

From now on, only native species will be planted outside tribal schools, office buildings and casinos on Seneca land.

That means instead of Austrian pines and Norway maples, there will be more balsam firs and white ash trees. Wild bee balm, cinnamon fern and other medicinal plants will take the place of non-native flowers and shrubbery.

Seneca President Barry Snyder says the policy is an offshoot of efforts to reduce diabetes by encouraging diets of locally grown fruits and vegetables.