Since 2014, the Wayne National Forest and Rural Action have partnered to restore populations of three threatened Appalachian herb species: American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and ramps (Allium tricoccum). The Wayne National Forest provides ideal habitat for these species. Except for ramps, they are harvested by permit on the Wayne National Forest, which is one of the very few remaining public forests that permit harvesting. Harvesting is a traditional form of recreation in the Appalachian region and it is important to balance conservation with recreational use. Yet incidences of illegal harvesting, over-collection, wildlife damage, and slow reproductive cycles have impacted populations across the region.
Rural Action and the Wayne have replanted thousands of seeds and collected data on dozens of herb populations across the national forest. This data, along with a long-term monitoring effort spearheaded by the two organizations, has allowed the Wayne to develop a better understanding of the range, life cycle, and resiliency of ginseng, goldenseal, and ramps in southeastern Ohio.
This work has been made possible through a partnership with the National Forest Foundation, the nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service. The National Forest Foundation works with USFS and thousands of Americans each year to promote the health and public enjoyment of our country’s 193-million-acre National Forest System.
Among temperate forest systems, the mixed mesophytic regime of the Appalachian sub-region is one of the world’s most biologically diverse. Though this forest type once extended across much of the Northern Hemisphere, its range has been reduced in North America to the hills west of the Appalachian Mountains, and of the remaining tracts more than 95% have been converted or degraded over the last 200 years. In spite of centuries of abuse, what remains supports an abundance of plant and animal life, with the richest temperate freshwater ecosystems in the world and dynamic forest floor communities. Yet much of this is under continued threat from deforestation, high-grading forestry practices, and forest fragmentation. Assessing these threats and mounting a response is particularly challenging for the region’s native herbs, which include a number of commercially and culturally valuable species such as American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), and ramps (Allium tricoccum).
Rural Action has a long-standing relationship with the Wayne National Forest, and decades of experience in forest restoration work. When the forest approved a highway bypass proposal, Rural Action stepped in to initiate a native plant rescue, working with the Wayne, Ohio University, and other partners to save thousands of displaced plants and incorporate them into a permanent educational garden at the WNF Headquarters. Since 2014 Rural Action has worked with the Wayne and the National Forest Foundation to monitor the health and resiliency of native herb populations on national forestland. And since 1994 Rural Action has sold forest herb seeds and transplant bulbs and offered hands-on technical assistance to engaged, conservation-minded landowners interested in cultivating and preserving the life and legacy of important native herbs.
World Wildlife Fund — Appalachian mixed mesophytic forests – Conservation status