Species preservation in action -- seed-grown star cactus under
cultivation in Texas
OUTREACH TO POTENTIAL ALLIES
Dr. Terry has had a catalytic role in forming working
groups in the academic scientific community to focus world-class
expertise in research designed to yield a deeper understanding of the
plants and habitat the Institute seeks to conserve. See the description
of these scientific
programs to better appreciate the considerable effort that he is
In an attempt to coordinate with nonscientific groups
having an interest in the health of cactus populations in the natural
range of star cactus, Dr. Terry accepted an unexpected invitation to
address the officers and delegates of the Native American Church (NAC)
of North America in Mirando City, Texas in February, 2004.
The NAC's primary concern was the increasing scarcity
of their sacrament, peyote, in its natural habitat in South Texas.
Peyote has been commercially harvested to supply the NAC for over 100
years in this area.
After Terry gave a brief introduction to his
scientific research relevant to the conservation of peyote and star
cactus, there was a lengthy discussion session, during which people in
the audience brought up the fact that some of the NAC members were
interested in cultivating their own supplies of peyote. Cultivation
would reduce the harvesting pressure on the remaining wild populations
Others spoke of the possibilities for some of the
wealthier Indian tribes purchasing their own acreage in South Texas,
and managing such tracts as "extractive reserves" for the sustainable
harvest of peyote for ceremonial use.
While no clear consensus was reached on any of the
topics that arose, the discussion showed that many NAC members were
already thinking in terms of conservation options for reducing the
Church's dependence on the shrinking supplies of peyote available
through commercial channels.
That led to an opportunity to go into further depth
with the NAC of North America by speaking at their annual meeting at
Crow Agency, Montana, in June, 2004. Both Martin Terry and Bennie
Williams attended this meeting, and the reception they received in
Montana was one of welcome and respect.
Policy decisions of the NAC of North America are arrived at
by thorough discussion.
The NAC initiative to obtain regulatory approval to
import peyote from Mexico occupied center stage at this meeting, but
there was also considerable discussion of conservation options both in
the public Q & A session following Terry's presentation, and in
smaller groups during the breaks.
Though the spectrum of opinion was as broad as the
geographic and cultural diversity of the members present at the
meeting, the unambiguous impression was that many NAC members are
actively interested in innovative ways of substituting greenhouse
production for the destructive overharvesting of wild populations.
It is only through coming to a mutual knowledge and
respect that the Institute has been able to suggest to the NAC, without
adverse reaction, that the practice of obtaining star cactus from South
Texas peyoteros is destructive, and that the recent affinity for buying
whole peyote plants invites annihilation of that species.
Dr. Terry has recently been contacted by the leader
of a Texas Native American Church group who is interested in opening a
dialogue with the DEA about the cultivation of peyote. CCI, in
collaboration with this forward-thinking individual and an interested
South Texas landowner, is now seeking funding for a matching funds
grant from the USDA to study the application of standard agricultural
techniques to maximize the production of peyote in its natural habitat
in South Texas.
The seed-grown plant shown above was encountered under cultivation in
Australia in 2003.
(Until 2008, peyote was legal to possess and to cultivate in that
country. It still is in most of the world.)