“Due to years of noticeable ginseng decline across the forest, we suspended the issuance of ginseng collection permits last year as a proactive approach to turn this trend around,” said Forest Supervisor Dan Olsen.
“Some recovery time is needed for a healthy number of ginseng plants to return on the forest landscape.”
Much of ginseng’s decline is attributed to illegal harvest methods. Overharvesting, out-of-season collection, the taking of mature plants without planting the seed for future crops, and the taking of all or most plants from a population are some of the contributing factors.
“Forest Service biologists have observed decreasing ginseng populations for several years now, and it finally reached a point that harvest needed to be managed more closely,” said botanist David Taylor.
“The demand for ginseng in the herbal medicine market seems to be increasing, but the supply cannot keep up with the demand.”
In wild ginseng’s population range, Kentucky ranks at the top in ginseng harvests. Other states with high collection rates include West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
To provide for future crops, wild ginseng collectors in Kentucky are required by law to plant seeds from harvested plants within 50 feet of the harvest location. The plants collected must be at least five years old and have three or more leaves.
“The illegal harvest and poaching of ginseng is a problem across southern Appalachia, and in some areas, the species has completely disappeared,” said Taylor.
On national forest lands, anyone removing wild ginseng plant or its parts without a permit or outside of the legal harvest season is considered theft. Penalties for poaching may include a fine up to $5,000 or 6-month sentence in federal prison, or both.
The Kentucky state regulations for ginseng are different from the rules that apply in the Daniel Boone National Forest. For more information, visit the state website at http://www.kyagr.com/marketing/ginseng.html and the DBNF website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/dbnf/passes-permits/forestproducts.