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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

June 21, 1999
Ken Torkelson, USFWS

CONEFLOWER POACHERS HIT PUBLIC LANDS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service workers have discovered cases of purple coneflower poaching in Wells and Stutsman counties. Mick Erickson, coordinator of the Chase Lake Prairie Project, says the incidents took place on Waterfowl Production Areas. "During routine land management activities on these WPAs, our biologists discovered holes where someone had apparently dug out and removed coneflower plants," reports Erickson.

The root of the plant is used to make echinacea, a top-selling herbal medicine that is sold as a treatment for colds and the flu. Its roots have brought sellers more than $16 per pound in North Dakota. Removing the plant from public property has long been a crime, and the 1999 North Dakota Legislature passed a bill that includes fines of up to $10,000 for unauthorized removal or possession of purple coneflowers anywhere in the state, including private lands.

"It’s bad enough that some unscrupulous people trespass on public property and remove these plants," says Erickson, "but they leave lasting scars on the land."

Safety is another concern, notes Mike McEnroe, supervisory biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bismarck. "Hunters, bird watchers, photographers and others use these public lands regularly, and we’re concerned that innocent people could get injured or stumble upon poachers and find themselves in a difficult situation."

The two men are asking rural residents to watch for unfamiliar vehicles and suspicious activities. "If they live near dry, upland prairies, they’re in prime habitat for the purple coneflower, and purple coneflower poachers," says McEnroe. He requests people report these activities to their local law enforcement agency.

Although public lands are especially at risk, private property isn’t immune from poachers. Says McEnroe, "People who steal from public lands wouldn’t hesitate to dig and steal from private lands, either."

In 1998, coneflower digging was reported in 14 North Dakota counties.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Contact: Erickson at 701-752-4218; McEnroe at 701-250-4418


Email Us: MountainPrairie@fws.gov

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