Nantahala Forest Ginseng Poacher Jailed

Published Feb 8, 2014

American Ginseng. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

American Ginseng. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Poaching ginseng roots in North Carolina's Nantahala National Forest is illegal. If you don't believe it, ask Charles R. Nash, of Whittier, NC.

Mr. Nash was sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell to serve 10 days in jail for the illegal possession or harvesting of American ginseng from the Nantahala National Forest, according to Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and Kristin Bail, Forest Supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina.

Those authorities say that on October 12, 2013, Mr. Nash admitted to illegally possessing 24 American ginseng roots he had dug from the Moses Creek and Wayehutta Off-Road Vehicle areas in Jackson County. He pleaded guilty to the poaching charge.

Forest Service staff members replanted the recovered viable roots, which according to one report was valued at $700 per pound in 2013.

American ginseng is on the list of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species. The U.S. Attorney's Office reminds the public that gathering ginseng on the Nantahala National Forest without a permit is illegal. U.S. Forest Service lands have been severely impacted by ginseng poachers in western North Carolina.

American ginseng was formerly abundant throughout the eastern mountains, but due to repeated poaching, populations have been reduced to a point that they can barely reproduce. The roots poached in this park are usually young, between the ages of five and 10 years, and have not yet reached their full reproductive capacity. In time, the plant's populations could recover if poaching ceased.

The Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is the regulatory agency that evaluates the biological and management status of wild American ginseng throughout its native range. The Division issues an annual or biennial report detailing if any harvest conditions need to be modified to ensure the sustainable harvest of wild native ginseng.

Permits to collect ginseng root in National Forests are issued through the U.S. Forest Service in early September. Permits are not available in National Park lands such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where even the possession of American Ginseng is prohibited.

The investigation of the case was handled by the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Asheville handled the prosecution.

To report illegal harvesting activities of American ginseng, please call 828-257-4200.

Tags: Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, and Crime

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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Ginseng is so rare in North Carolina's forests that officials now require permits to harvest wild ginseng there.