Helping Park Rangers Help Your Park

Each year, your partnership funds professional development for park rangers in Shenandoah National Park. These opportunities are not only having lasting impact in your park through the learning and skills Shenandoah park rangers acquire, but also through the networking and contacts, and inspiration they bring back to your park.

U.S. Park Ranger Melissa Moses, who is leading the effort to stop gingseng poaching in Shenandoah, recently attended a symposium on the future of gingseng and other forest botanicals, thanks to funding provided by the Trust’s Robert Jacobsen Employee Development Fund. Melissa (pictured at left with United Plant Savers representative, Rebecca Wood) shared her experience in the following note of thanks:

This summer I had the honor to attend a symposium on The Future of Ginseng and Forest Botanicals in Morgantown, West Virginia that was coordinated by the United Plant Savers organization with grant funding from the US Fish and Wildlife agency.

The conference kicked off with a wealth of information on the current research on American Ginseng. Presenter James McGraw, who has a rich history of studying ginseng, gave a dim status report and asked attendees “When does conservation policy need to change?” Mindful that the audience was composed of numerous stakeholders, including state ginseng coordinators, dealers, some diggers, various law enforcement from county, state, and federal agencies, business people, farmers and more, the answers all varied but with a similar tone of how we can protect the special plant at hand.

The researchers pressed on with their presentations that included different aspects of harvesting including how the plant is aged, genetic diversity, regulation and supply, canopy disturbances, assessing status based on harvest and monitoring data, replanting rhizomes after harvesting the root.

This wealth of information has helped me to process what steps I can take to help better protect ginseng as a park ranger at Shenandoah National Park. More specifically, while the plant can be sustainably harvested outside the park, what I can do to help protect it from being harvested, how I can help to prevent illegal harvesting, and how to build relationships with local stakeholders.

The tone of the conference was that of protection and conservation of ginseng. While many illegal harvesters do not share this view, there are ways to work with local stakeholders who do share the conservation/protection view that may be able to aid us in our mission of protection.

The conference has been a spring board towards developing local relationships, including Virginia’s state ginseng coordinator, Keith Tignor. He and I have since spoken about some of the different resources that are available to law enforcement staff. I hope to continue to share this information through trainings and case work. I also plan on developing relationships with some of the local dealers. One of the bigger projects that should be addressed is a project of marking all known colonies of ginseng within the park; numerous folks recommended a source for this type of proactive approach to protection which occurs at the Smoky Mountain National Park and Big South Fork River and Recreation Area.

Thank you kindly, Shenandoah National Park Trust, for the opportunity to represent Shenandoah National Park at the symposium.