National Forest Service Warns Against Plant Poaching - WSPA.com

National Forest Service Warns Against Plant Poaching

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Ramps are a delicacy added to spring tonics and southern dishes. Ramps are a delicacy added to spring tonics and southern dishes.
ASHEVILLE, N.C. -

Spring time means visitors will be on the lookout for ramps at the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests.

Ramps are a delicacy added to spring tonics and southern dishes. Forest service employees are working hard to sustain those plants. Botanists monitor plants, administrators oversee the special forest products program and law enforcement officers enforce permit laws. However, they're running into a problem with illegal harvesting.

"Over the years, we've seen a decline in populations of ginseng and other forest products such as ramps," said Gary Kauffman, botanist with the National Forests in North Carolina.

If their numbers get too low, the Forest Service may have to make changes, including shortening the harvest season, reducing the amount of plants that can be harvested or banning the harvest of a particular plant altogether. There is a way for visitors to prevent the agency from taking such drastic measures.

"Harvesters can help by not taking too many of any one kind of plant in a single area. The key is to leave plants behind so natural regeneration can occur," explained Kauffman.

Removing any plant from national forest land without a permit is considered theft. The plants are considered public property, and taking it will result in a fine up to $5,000, a sentence in a federal prison, or both. Anyone who wants to collect must have a permit.

"Permits can be purchased at local ranger station offices," said Teresa Whitmire, resource specialist with the National Forests in North Carolina. "Before removing any forest product from a national forest, check with your closest ranger station regarding regulations."

For more information on plant theft and where you are allowed to collect plants, click here.

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