The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will not issue American ginseng harvest permits this year due to continued declines and low population levels observed through monitoring and surveys.
Commercial harvesting of wild ginseng has been occurring for the past 250 years. Declines are attributed to long-term harvesting, more recent over harvesting, out-of-season harvest, and the taking of mature plants without planting the seeds for future crops. The number of plants now in the national forests is too low to be sustainably harvested.
“Every year we’ve seen fewer ginseng plants and the danger is that they’ll completely disappear from this area,” said Gary Kauffman, botanist for the National Forests in North Carolina. “We need to pause the harvest now to help ensure that these plants will be available in future years and for our grandkids and their kids.” Kauffman monitors plant levels and has worked with other organizations to reintroduce ginseng into the forest where the plant has been overharvested.
Anyone removing wild ginseng plants or its parts on national forest lands without a permit may be fined up to $5,000 or a 6-month sentence in federal prison, or both.
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