|Mature American ginseng plant with berries. No photos of Bob because of his undercover work. Photo Credit: Gary Kauffman/U.S. Forest Service|
Bob Snow is a Senior Special Agent assigned to Louisville, Kentucky, and has been with the Service for over 21 years. While in college he interned for the Chesapeake Bay Estuary Program in Maryland, worked as a Refuge Law Enforcement Officer in Virginia, Washington, Oregon and Florida, and has served as a Special Agent with the Office of Law Enforcement since 1998 when he was assigned to San Francisco. In recent years SA Snow has tackled wild ginseng poaching in Kentucky.
5 Questions for Bob
1. What inspired you to work on this issue?
|Ginseng has long been used for medicine, originally harvested by many different Native American tribes and used in Asian medicinal products. Photo Credit: Andrea Ottesen|
One could argue that wild ginseng is one of the most valuable natural resources found in deep Appalachia and other rural areas of Kentucky. Harvesters bring in an estimated cash income of $8 million to $10 million annually. The root has been sought in Southeast Asia for centuries and was even harvested by Daniel Boone to supplement his income after he discovered passage to Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap (now a National Park with a ginseng poaching problem). This history as well as the lack of regulatory enforcement inspired me to ensure the trafficking of this rare plant does not result in its extinction.
Because the export of wild ginseng is regulated through the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), states with ginseng populations are required to implement harvest and certification programs before the state’s ginseng can be exported from the United States. These programs are meant to ensure that the harvest remains sustainable. Seasons are established to ensure that a ginseng plant has matured and produced seeds before its harvest. As a result, if regulations are complied with there should always be a sustainable source of this valuable root in Kentucky and elsewhere.