Wayne Forest requires ginseng harvest permits

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Officials trying to ward off ginseng poachers in southern Ohio’s Wayne National Forest will now require a permit to harvest the root plant that’s thought to have medicinal properties and can sell for hundreds of dollars a pound.

The new $20 permit to harvest ginseng in the forest should help officials track the amount of ginseng taken from the forest in Athens County, forest spokesman Gary Chancey said. Until now, ginseng has been included for harvesting under a general permit that includes six other root plant species, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

The slow-growing plant has fleshy roots that are said to have medicinal purposes. Dried ginseng is used to help combat stress, cancer-related fatigue, diabetes and several other ailments.

The wild ginseng permits will go on sale Aug. 1, a month before the harvest season gets underway and runs through Dec. 1 at the forest.

The park joins Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky in instituting a ginseng-specific permit. The number of ginseng plants available is on the decline and Boone National Forest has shortened the harvest season to two weeks in September as a result.

Increased harvesting has hurt the ginseng population, said Tom Redfern, director of sustainable agriculture and forestry for the Ohio-based group Rural Action. Statistics from the state Division of Wildlife showed that there has also been a spike in poaching of the root.

Ginseng harvesting has been incorrectly portrayed through reality television as a “quick way to make a buck,” when it’s really a form of “wild-crafting,” which is an important cultural tradition in the Appalachian region, Redfern said.

Violators who are caught digging ginseng without permission or digging out of season will be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.