Ginseng Harvesting on the Chattahoochee National Forest

Ginseng plant

Forest Service officials have decided to limit the harvesting of wild ginseng in the Chattahoochee National Forest because of concerns over reductions in wild ginseng numbers. 

Range-wide, wild ginseng populations have declined over the past decade.  A recent dramatic increase in the demand for permits issued for harvesting ginseng in the Chattahoochee National Forest has raised concerns about sustainable harvest levels.

We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to further limit the amount of the harvest to help ensure that the plant’s future sustainability is protected.

Wild ginseng may be collected only by those with permits and only during the designated harvest season.

In 2014, the Forest Service is implementing the following process for permitting wild ginseng harvests in the Chattahoochee National Forest:

  • A total of 42 annual permits may be issued.
  • 40 permits may be issued for the Blue Ridge Ranger District and 2 permits may be issued for the Conasauga Ranger District.  No ginseng permits will be issued for the Chattooga River Ranger District or the Oconee National Forest (see Ranger District map here).
  • Permits will be issued through a lottery system, with entries randomly selected by each district office. Lottery entries can be made by calling or visiting the issuing district office before August 1, 2014. Lottery entries may be made at more than one district office (find district office contact information here).
  • A permit allows the harvest of 1/2 wet pound of wild ginseng in the ranger district where the permit is issued. (Three wet pounds are equivalent to one dry pound.)
  • Permits are $20 each.
  • Harvesting is allowed for 2 weeks only, September 1-14, 2014.
  • Harvesting is prohibited in all designated Wilderness areas.  Each district ranger may further limit ginseng harvests to certain areas of the national forest to allow the plants to regenerate, or to protect other natural areas. Harvest area descriptions and maps will be provided to permit holders.

Additional Information

These limits to the wild ginseng harvest in the Chattahoochee National Forest will allow the Forest Service and partners to assess whether future measures may be needed.

The Forest Service is developing a long-term strategy for managing sustainable ginseng populations that will include increased monitoring efforts.

Those requesting a permit must call or visit the district office and submit their name and address by August 1, 2014. Requests by email will not be accepted. Written notification will be mailed to applicants selected by lottery before Aug. 15.

District offices will issue permits to selected applicants  August 15-30, 2014.

Ginseng is not harvested in the Oconee National Forest. 

In addition to reducing the legal harvest of wild ginseng, the Forest Service plans to increase 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.

Every plant on the national forest is public property and is sustainably managed by the Forest Service to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Ginseng root has been favored as a tonic primarily in East Asia for the past two-and-a half centuries. In Georgia, ginseng is more common in the mountains.

Download a fact sheet about the 2014 ginseng harvesting permit process for the Chattahoochee National Forest.