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Forest Service Limits Ginseng Harvest to Protect Plant

This following press release has been issued by the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina.

Kristin Bail, forest supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina, today announced that agency officials have decided to limit the harvesting of wild ginseng in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, citing concern over reductions in wild ginseng numbers.

“Dramatic declines of wild ginseng populations over the past decade suggest previous harvest levels are no longer sustainable,” said Bail. “It is in everyone’s best interest to further limit the amount of the harvest to help ensure the plant’s future sustainability is protected.”

Visitors must obtain a permit to collect wild ginseng during the designated harvest season.

 Starting in 2013, the Forest Service is implementing the following changes to wild ginseng harvests in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests:

  • The number of permits issued will be reduced to 136 annual permits, a 75 percent reduction of permits from recent years.
  • Permits will be issued through a lottery system (selected randomly) by each district office. Persons may submit their names at more than one district office.
  • A permit allows a person to harvest 1-3 wet pounds (at $40 per pound) of wild ginseng in the ranger district where the permit is issued.
  • The permitted harvest season will be reduced to 2 weeks from 4 weeks. Harvesting will be allowed Sept. 1-15 starting in 2013.
  • Each district ranger may further limit ginseng harvests to certain areas of the national forest to allow the plants to regenerate, or to protect designated wilderness and other natural areas. Harvest area descriptions and maps will be provided to permit holders.

“These limits to the wild ginseng harvest in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will allow the Forest Service and partners a chance to assess whether future measures may be needed,” said Bail.

Those requesting a permit must call or visit the district office and submit their name and address by July 15. Requests by email will not be accepted. Written notification will be mailed to applicants selected by lottery before Aug. 15. District offices will issue permits Aug. 20 – Sept. 1 to selected applicants. Harvest is prohibited in designated wilderness and other natural areas set aside for research purposes, such as Walker Cove and Black Mountain.

In addition to reducing the legal harvest of wild ginseng, the Forest Service plans to increase law enforcement efforts to reduce poaching. Removing a wild ginseng plant or its parts from national forests without a permit or outside of the legal harvest season is considered theft of public property. Penalties for plant poaching may include a fine up to $5,000 or 6-month sentence in federal prison, or both. Every plant on the national forest is public property and is sustainably managed by the Forest Service to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Ginseng root has been favored as a tonic primarily in East Asia for the past two-and-a-half centuries. In North Carolina, ginseng is more common in the mountains, very infrequent in the piedmont, and very rare in the coastal plain.

For more information about harvesting ginseng in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5424463.pdf.

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Posted in NC-Cherokee County, NC-Clay County, NC-Graham County, NC-Macon County, NC-Swain County, Regional News

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