U.S. Forest Service Announces Ginseng Permit Lottery for 2018

Last Updated on May 29, 2018 6:04 pm

Asheville, NC, May 29, 2018 – 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 4 to July 20.
A permit is required to collect wild ginseng in the two national forests during the designated harvest season. Those seeking a permit must call or visit a ranger district office and submit their name and address for the lottery between June 4 and July 20. Requests by email will not be accepted. Written notification will be mailed to successful applicants selected by lottery before August 17. District offices will start issuing permits to selected applicants August 27 with an effective date of September 1.
Wild ginseng plants on the national forest are sustainably managed by the U.S.  Forest Service to meet the needs of present and future generations. In 2013, due to concern over reductions in wild ginseng numbers, the Forest Service implemented changes to wild ginseng harvests on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests to conserve wild ginseng populations. These policies remain in place including:
  • The number of permits issued is limited to 136 annual permits, a 75 percent reduction from historical permit issuances.
  • 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 1 through September 15, 2018.
  • 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 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.
Ranger District contact information may be found at the National Forests in North Carolina website,

For more information about harvesting ginseng in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests, see

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