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Forest Service reminds ginseng collectors to avoid national forest lands

With Kentucky’s ginseng season just around the corner, U.S. Forest Service officials are reminding harvesters that taking ginseng from national forest lands is currently prohibited.

In an effort to reestablish the wild ginseng population, the Daniel Boone National Forest suspended ginseng harvest in 2016. The suspension order was extended to include this year’s harvest season.

“We’re taking this effort seriously to prevent further decline and allow ginseng some recovery time,” said Forest Supervisor Dan Olsen.

“The demand for wild ginseng seems to far outweigh the supply at this point, and unless the taking of ginseng is controlled, the population of this plant on the forest could be reduced to an unsustainable level and lost altogether.”

Ginseng’s decline is attributed mostly to illegal harvest, such as overharvesting and poaching outside of the designated harvest season. Kentucky’s ginseng season is September 1 through December 1. Landowner permission for ginseng collection is required.

Over the past year, nearly 20 individuals have been fined and required to appear in federal court for illegally taking ginseng and other plants from the Daniel Boone National Forest. Most recently, three individuals were caught poaching ginseng from national forest lands in McCreary County. The fine, restitution and court fees cost each person more than $1,000.

In the wild ginseng population range, Kentucky ranks at the top in ginseng harvest. Other states with high collection rates include West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.

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 could result in a fine of up to $5,000 or a 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 and the DBNF website at

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