[Federal Register: October 7, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 194)]
[Page 54631-54633]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

Export of American Ginseng

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The Service seeks comments and input on the conservation 
status of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and the impact of 
harvest and international trade on the species. This review of the 
status of the species and related trade will assist in determining any 
appropriate modification to export restrictions for wild American 
ginseng during the 2000 harvest season and beyond.

DATES: We will consider comments and information submitted by all 
interested parties by February 4, 2000.

ADDRESSES: You may submit any comments or information by mail to the 
Office of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mail 
Stop ARLSQ-750, Washington, D.C. 20240, or via fax (703-358-2276). You 
may also submit comments via E-mail to: r9osa@fws.gov. You may inspect 
any comments and information we receive, by appointment only, from 8:00 
a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Office of Scientific 
Authority, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr., Room 750, Arlington, Virginia.

Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mail Stop ARLSQ-
750, Washington, D.C. 20240 (phone: 703-358-1708; fax: 703-358-2276; e-
mail: r9osa@fws.gov).



    American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) was listed in Appendix II of 
the Convention on International

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Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on February 
22, 1977. The Department of the Interior is designated by the U.S. 
Endangered Species Act as both the CITES Management and Scientific 
Authority, and is therefore obligated to regulate the export of 
American ginseng, including whole plants, whole roots, and root parts. 
Those functions have been delegated to the Office of Management 
Authority and the Office of Scientific Authority of the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service. Under the authority of the CITES treaty (Article IV), 
implemented by the U.S. Endangered Species Act, we can only allow the 
export of American ginseng from the United States if the Office of 
Scientific Authority advises the Office of Management Authority that 
such export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species, and 
if the Office of Management Authority is satisfied that the specimens 
to be exported were not obtained in contravention of any laws for their 
protection (that is, they were legally acquired). CITES Article IV also 
requires that the Scientific Authority monitor the exports of all 
Appendix II species, including American ginseng, and determine whether 
any such exports ``should be limited in order to maintain that species 
throughout its range at a level consistent with its role in the 
ecosystems in which it occurs and well above the level at which that 
species might become eligible for inclusion in Appendix I * * *''
    The Office of Scientific Authority uses a wide range of information 
to ensure that the species remains at healthy population levels 
throughout its range and to determine whether export of ginseng will 
not be detrimental to the survival of the species. That information 
includes but is not limited to the following: (1) Whether such export 
occurred in the past, and has appreciably reduced abundance or 
distribution of the species; (2) whether such export has or is expected 
to increase, remain constant, or decrease; and (3) whether the life-
history parameters of the species indicate that the present and 
projected levels of export will reduce appreciably the numbers or 
distribution of the species. The information is available from State 
regulatory agencies, industry representatives and associations, non-
governmental organizations, and academic researchers.
    Under both the CITES treaty and the Endangered Species Act, the 
Office of Scientific Authority has the option of issuing the required 
scientific findings on a permit-by-permit basis, or programmatically on 
a State-by-State basis. There are native U.S. species listed in 
Appendix II for which the Office of Scientific Authority issues its 
non-detriment findings to the Management Authority on a shipment-by-
shipment basis, while there are others for which the Office of 
Scientific Authority issues findings on a State-by-State basis. Since 
the inclusion of American ginseng in CITES Appendix II in 1977, the 
Office of Scientific Authority has issued its findings on a State-by-
State basis.
    To determine whether or not to approve exports of American ginseng 
harvested in a State, the Office of Scientific Authority annually 
reviews publicly available data from many sources, including each State 
with a ginseng harvest program, on the general status of the species in 
each State. Based on information available (such as pounds of wild 
ginseng harvested; average roots/lb; average age of harvested plants 
estimated by counting bud scars or converting dry weight to age; and 
trends in abundance of wild ginseng populations as measured in field 
surveys), the Office of Scientific Authority makes a finding on the 
continued export of wild ginseng from a specific State. Information on 
ginseng harvest programs are reviewed and compared with information 
from previous harvest seasons by the Office of Scientific Authority and 
Office of Management Authority on June of each year. Afterwards, a 
finding on the export of ginseng to be harvested during the year in 
question is made by the Office of Scientific Authority early in the 
    On August 2, 1999, the Office of Scientific Authority issued its 
finding on the export of American ginseng harvested during the 1999 
season from States with ginseng harvest programs. Although the Office 
of Scientific Authority was able to make a positive finding, it was 
able to do so only for ginseng roots 5 years old or older, and not for 
all roots (as in previous years). We conditioned our non-detriment 
finding after reviewing the best scientific information currently 
available to the Office of Scientific Authority on the biology and 
status of American ginseng. Through communications with biologists from 
Great Smoky Mountains National Park and National Forests throughout the 
species' range (including those in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, 
Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, 
Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin), the Office of Scientific 
Authority has become aware that ginseng plants are not only being over-
harvested in some parts of the country, but also that plants harvested 
are not afforded the opportunity to reach reproductive age and produce 
seeds. Independent ginseng researchers have contacted the Office of 
Scientific Authority concerning their surveys of ginseng populations in 
States that do not have wild ginseng harvest programs. They have found 
further evidence that young ginseng plants are being harvested and that 
ginseng populations may not be able to sustain harvest of such young 
    Given that wild ginseng does not propagate asexually, it is 
critical that plants be allowed to reach reproductive age and produce 
seeds prior to their harvest so as to ensure replacement of the 
harvested plants and long-term survival of the species. Most ginseng 
plants start producing seeds when they attain 2 leaves (also known as 
prongs) at 3 to 4 years of age (R. C. Anderson, J. S. Fralish, J. E. 
Armstrong, and P. K. Benjamin. 1984. Biology of ginseng, Panax 
quinquefolius, in Illinois. Illinois Department of Conservation, 
Division of Forest Resources and Natural Heritage, Springfield, 
Illinois. 32 pages.) Ginseng plants add a third prong between 5 and 9 
years of age, with the majority of them doing so when they are 7 years 
    Based on the above information and to ensure that ginseng plants 
harvested from the wild reach reproductive age and produce seeds for at 
least two seasons, the Office of Scientific Authority requested in its 
August 2, 1999 finding that the Office of Management Authority, which 
is responsible for issuing CITES permits, condition permits for the 
export of ginseng roots harvested from the wild in the 1999 season so 
as to allow only export of roots that are 5 years of age or older. 
Without the inclusion of an age-based condition in each CITES export 
permit for wild American ginseng, we would not have found that the 
harvest of ginseng from the wild during the 1999 season is not 
detrimental to the survival of the species.
    Most States with wild ginseng harvest programs (including Alabama, 
Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, 
Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) already 
have regulations in place that prohibit the harvest of ginseng plants 
with less than three prongs (compound leaves); that is, harvested 
plants must be at least 5 years old. Therefore, the age-based 
restriction of export of wild ginseng roots does not constitute any new 
restriction on the harvest of wild ginseng roots in these States. We 
are simply assisting the States in the enforcement of their own 
regulations by

[[Page 54633]]

discouraging individuals from digging plants that have not yet 
reproduced, as well as discouraging dealers from purchasing roots of 
young plants. Likewise, as of August 30, 1999, the U.S. Forest 
Service--Eastern Region has also directed that permits for the 
collection of wild ginseng on National Forest lands (including Shawnee 
National Forest, Illinois; Hoosier National Forest, Indiana; Huron and 
Manistee National Forests, Michigan; Chippewa and Superior National 
Forests, Minnesota; Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri; Wayne 
National Forest, Ohio; Alleghany National Forest, Pennsylvania; Green 
Mountain National Forest, Vermont; Monongahela National Forest, West 
Virginia; Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Wisconsin) be restricted 
to plants at least 5 years of age. Our ultimate objective is to prevent 
the extirpation from the wild of this valuable natural resource and the 
resultant negative economic impact this would have on citizens who 
depend on this plant as a source of income.
    The issuance of a ``non-detriment'' finding by the Scientific 
Authority is required by both the Endangered Species Act and the CITES 
treaty as one of the prerequisites that must be met before any export 
permit can be issued for an Appendix-II species. As such, the non-
detriment finding is one of several administrative determinations that 
comprise the decision-making process for the issuance of CITES permits. 
Prior to 1994, we issued multi-year findings on exports of American 
ginseng through a Notice in the Federal Register as an informational 
matter. For the past several years, we issued our findings on an annual 
administrative basis. New biological information available to us 
precludes the issuance of a multi-year non-detriment finding. The 
Service consulted with the ginseng program coordinators from all States 
where harvest of wild ginseng is allowed, prior to the Office of 
Scientific Authority issuing its 1999 finding.
    The responsibility for inspection of all plant import and exports, 
including shipments of ginseng, rests with the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). 
Policies on the inspection and clearance of plant shipments, including 
ginseng, are made by APHIS. We work closely with APHIS, and continue to 
work closely in the enforcement and implementation of the new permit 

Public Comments Solicited

    In anticipation of the ginseng harvest season for 2000 and beyond, 
we are seeking information from the public, other concerned 
governmental agencies, the scientific community, the trade industry, or 
any other interested party on the status of ginseng populations in the 
wild. We particularly seek biological and trade information concerning 
the impact of ginseng harvest and international trade on wild 
populations of the species, the current conservation status of the 
species throughout its range, or other relevant data concerning any 
threat to the species. Such information may lead us to modify current 
restrictions on the export of wild American ginseng during the 2000 
harvest season, and beyond.
    Author: The primary author of this notice is Dr. Javier Alvarez, 
Office of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mail 
Stop ARLSQ-750, Washington, D.C. 20240.

    Dated: September 30, 1999.
Jamie Rappaport Clark,
[FR Doc. 99-26205 Filed 10-6-99; 8:45 am]