Permits to Harvest Wild Ginseng in NC

US Forest Service

US Forest Service

Ginseng root has been favored as a tonic primarily in East Asia for the past 250 years or more. Ginseng can be found in the mountains of North Carolina in limited amounts. Steps have been taken to preserve this precious resource. Visitors must now have permits to harvest wild ginseng in NC.

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.

Permits are required by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) in North Carolina to harvest (collect) wild ginseng in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests during the designated harvest season.

Last year, the Forest Service limited the harvesting of wild ginseng in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, citing concern over reductions in wild ginseng numbers. So many people are interested in the picking ginseng in these areas that a lottery has been established to fairly dole out the limited number of USFS permits.

If you would like to submit your contact information to a district office to participate in the lottery for receiving a ginseng harvest permit, you may do so between June 15 and July 15, 2014.

In 2013, the USFS in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests implemented these changes to wild ginseng harvests:

  • The number of annual permits issued is now limited to 136; a 75% reduction.
  • Permits are 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 was reduced to two weeks from four weeks.
  • Harvesting will be allowed between September 16th through September 30, 2014.
  • 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.

How to Obtain a Permit

  • Those requesting a permit must call or visit a ranger district office and submit their name and address between June 15 and July 15.
  • Requests by email will not be accepted.
  • Written notification will be mailed to those selected by lottery before August 15.
  • District offices will issue permits August 20 until September 1, 2014 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. Again, 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.


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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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