Poaching in the Appalachians: The End of a Species

ginsengAs you know from reading More Than Magic, one of the secrets the Woodruffs protect on their mountain is a huge bed of ancient, and very valuable, ginseng. Ginseng only grows wild in certain environments, and the central Appalachian mountains are an ideal habitat. And wild ginseng is prized specifically because of its potency as a result of its habitat. For that reason, poaching has become even more of a problem in the Appalachians, especially as the economy has worsened.

ginsengThe show Appalachian Outlaws on the History Channel doesn’t help matters much. It glorifies illegal poaching and the men who do it. People who would think twice about going onto someone else’s property and stealing equipment or livestock think nothing of stealing plants. But perhaps now they will.

In December, a Watauga County, North Carolina man pleaded guilty to felony larceny of ginseng from private property. This is the first time a person has been convicted of a felony in North Carolina for stealing ginseng from private property. As the owner of the property, and the ginseng, pointed out. “A dried pound is worth anywhere from $600 to $1200 a pound. You can put five pounds in a backpack easy and walk out of the woods and never be noticed.” It is hoped this conviction will send a message to other poachers.

ginsengThose who legitimately harvest and sell the wild ginseng on their own property, as the Woodruffs do, serve as stewards for the plant and its habitat and are helping to preserve the plant from extinction.

And those who harvest wild ginseng as well as cultivate wild-simulated ginseng are begging for a change in the current regulatory structure that will better protect the wild plants. If we don’t come up with a creative solution, we will lose yet another iconic species to greed and thoughtlessness. As Daniel says in Making Magic, “the point of sustainable growth is not to go backward, but to go thoughtfully forward. The problem is that a lot of what people call progress today actually isn’t. It’s mindless blundering around, with the only consideration being profit, not the consequences.”

ginsengWhat the History Channel is doing in glorifying these ginseng poachers is mindless blundering for the sake of profit with no understanding of the impact on the future of an entire species. Yet another reason to detest reality shows.

What can you do? Well, you could let the History Channel know how you feel about Appalachian Outlaws, but mostly we all just need to be aware of the endangered species that we impact every day and take whatever steps you can to help preserve them.


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