HARVESTING GINSENG OUT OF SEASON IS COSTLY VENTURE|
FOR PERRY COUNTY DIGGERS
LOGAN, OH - Four Perry County men, convicted of digging ginseng root out of season in Wayne National Forest and on property of the Sunday Creek Coal Company, will pay for their crimes with fines and community service, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.
Rex Thompson, 27, and Art Thompson, 37, both of New Lexington; and Steven Perrin, 51, of New Straitsville, pleaded guilty in Hocking County Municipal Court on June 20 to eight first-degree misdemeanor charges of illegally taking and possessing ginseng. A fourth man, Joe Cheeseman, 57, of New Straitsville, pleaded guilty to a single charge of illegally possessing ginseng.
Judge Richard Wallar sentenced each of the Thompson brothers and Perrin to a year in jail. He also fined each man $2,000. Judge Wallar suspended nine months of the jail time and will allow each of the three men to perform six months of community service in lieu of the three remaining months behind bars. Judge Waller sentenced Cheeseman to 30 days in jail and fined the man $200. The judge suspended 20 days of Cheeseman's jail time and will allow him to perform 20 days of community service in lieu of the 10 remaining days.
The Thompsons and Perrin will spend the next five years on probation. During that time, they are forbidden from digging ginseng (in-season or out-of-season) in Wayne National Forest or on Sunday Creek Coal Company land. Judge Waller placed Cheeseman on a similar two-year probation.
State wildlife officers cited the men in mid-June for illegally harvesting and possessing more than 4,500 roots of the perennial herb that is valued in Far Eastern markets for making tonics and medicines. The Division of Wildlife estimated current market value of the men's cache at $6,000. On the day of their arrest, the four had more than 500 roots in their possession.
Ginseng, with its thick, aromatic root, grows wild in Ohio forests, and can be legally harvested between August 15 and December 31. The digging of ginseng is regulated by Ohio law because naturalists suspect that past over-harvesting has led to declining populations of the plant. A regulated harvest allows the plant to survive and re-seed. The plant is also more valuable on the market when harvested in prime condition. The current market value for ginseng root is about $400 per pound. All ginseng buyers must be licensed by the ODNR Division of Wildlife.