Ginseng is a native plant of Tennessee that grows mostly in cool, moist mountain forests. This perennial herb is highly prized for its large, fleshy roots which are believed to have medicinal value. Permits are required to collect ginseng in the national forest. Range-wide, wild ginseng populations have declined over the past decade. The Forest Service is limiting the collection of ginseng in the Cherokee National Forest because of concerns about sustainable harvest levels. Forest Service managers believe it is in everyone’s best interest to limit the amount of collection to help ensure that the plant’s future sustainability is protected.
Collecting Season & Permits
Starting in 2013, the Forest Service is implementing the following process for permitting ginseng collecting in the Cherokee National Forest:
• The 2013 ginseng collecting season will be from September 16th through September 30th. This two week period will be the only time that ginseng can be legally collected in the Cherokee National Forest by valid permit holders.
• The Forest Service will issue a total of 40 permits, each with a maximum limit of 25 roots.
• A lottery will be held to determine the 40 permittees. Twenty permits will be issued for the northern half of the Forest (Watauga & Unaka Ranger Districts) and twenty permits will be issued for the southern half of the Forest (Tellico & Ocoee Ranger Districts).
• Lottery applicants may only apply for either the north or the south Cherokee NF.
• Permits will cost $20 and are limited to one permit per person per year. Permittees must be at least 18 years of age.
• Five ginseng collection zones have been designated for the north Cherokee NF (Watauga & Unaka Districts), and five collecting zones for the south Cherokee NF (Tellico & Ocoee Districts). Only one zone on each half of the Forest will be open for collection each year. Collection zones will be rotated each year to allow plants a five-year recovery period necessary to help ensure populations remain sustainable.
For 2013 the following collection zones will be open:
o North Cherokee NF – Zone 1: Cherokee NF land in Cocke County
o South Cherokee NF – Zone 4: Cherokee NF land between Hwy 68 south of Tellico Plains and Hwy 165.
• A map will be issued with each permit indicating areas within the zone that are open for collecting. No collecting will be permitted outside the areas designated on the map.
2013 Ginseng Permit Lottery
Lottery applicants may only apply for one half of the Forest– north Cherokee NF or south Cherokee NF. All persons interested in obtaining a permit to collect ginseng in either the north or the south Cherokee National Forest for the 2013 season must submit a letter of request to:
U.S. Forest Service
2800 Ocoee Street N.
Cleveland, TN 37312
ATTN: Ginseng Permits
Letters of request can be sent to the office listed above between August 9th and August 30th, 2013, but must be received no later than August 30th to be included in the lottery. Letters must include the following information:
• Applicant’s full name (person who will do collecting)
• Mailing address
• Phone number of the individual who will do the collecting
• Which section of the Forest the permit is being requested for – north Cherokee NF or south Cherokee NF (only one section can be applied for)
Successful permittees will be notified by letter beginning the week of September 2nd. In order to obtain the permit, individuals must bring the letter of notification and valid ID to the Ranger District Office identified in the lottery notification letter to pay for and sign the permit prior to collecting. Once notified, successful applicants may obtain their permits beginning the week of September 9th, or anytime during the open season (Sept. 16 -30).
For more Information
For questions or additional information please call: Unaka Ranger District– 423-638-4109, or Tellico Ranger District – 423-253-8400.