U.S. Forest Service Announces Ginseng Permit Lottery for 2020

ASHEVILLE, NC (June 19, 2020) — The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests announced today that this year’s ginseng harvest permits will be determined again by lottery with an application period from June 22 to July 27.

A permit is required to collect wild ginseng in the two national forests during the designated harvest season. Those seeking a permit must call a ranger district office and submit their name and address for the lottery between June 22 and July 27. Requests by email will not be accepted.

• Pisgah National Forest:
   Appalachian Ranger District: 828-689-9694
   Grandfather Ranger District: 828-652-2144
   Pisgah Ranger District: 828-634-1031

• Nantahala National Forest
   Cheoah Ranger District: 828-634-1031
   Nantahala Ranger District: 828-634-1031
   Tusquitee Ranger District: 828-634-1031

Written notification will be mailed to successful applicants selected by lottery before August 16. District offices will start issuing permits to selected applicants August 25 with an effective date of September 16th.

The number of permits issued is limited to 136 annual permits.

• Pisgah National Forest
   Appalachian Ranger District – 29 permits
   Grandfather Ranger District – 7 permits
   Pisgah Ranger District – 8 permits

• Nantahala National Forest
   Cheoah Ranger District – 16 permits
   Nantahala Ranger District – 66 permits
   Tusquitee Ranger District – 10 permits

Permits are issued through a lottery system (selected randomly) by each district office. Individuals 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 is 2 weeks. Harvesting will be allowed September 16 through September 30, 2020.

Each District Ranger may further limit ginseng harvests to certain areas of the national forest to allow the plants to regenerate or to protect natural areas. Harvest area descriptions and maps will be provided to permit recipients. 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 has increased law enforcement efforts to reduce poaching. 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.

Ginseng root has been favored as a tonic primarily in East Asia for the past two-and-a-half centuries. In North Carolina, ginseng is more common in the mountains, very infrequent in the piedmont, and very rare in the coastal plain.

For more information about harvesting ginseng in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, click here.