Blue Ridge Parkway Ginseng Poachers Do Time
Ginseng Five men have been sentenced to jail for poaching wild ginseng from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Asian cultures believe ginseng root can treat things like chronic fatigue and sexual dysfunction. Ginseng grown in the wild is especially coveted. A pound harvested from the mountains of western North Carolina sells for more than $400.
Since the recession, Blue Ridge Parkway Chief Ranger Steve Stinnett says ginseng poaching has become a top concern. "Historically ginseng poaching has occurred in western North Carolina and other areas and it wasn't so much of a factor because it was taken for local, personal use," says Stinnett. "We're talking about commercial harvesting at this point where they're just doing wholesale removal of colonies of ginseng."
American ginseng is a protected plant, but can be harvested legally in some parts of North Carolina with a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. However, no plant harvesting is allowed in national parks like the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stinnett says park rangers do surveillance operations and take tips from park visitors to catch ginseng poachers. That's how five men from the Smokies region got caught. They'll each spend between 10 days and a month in jail.