Ramp diggers: USFS permit may be required

Believe or not it is spring time, and that means ramps are turning up here in the mountains.

This delicacy in many southern dishes can be found throughout the Nantahala National Forest, but the US Forest Service says they’ve seen a decline in ramp populations and other forest products such as ginseng.

If numbers get too low, the Forest Service could change the way they manage products such as ramps by possibly shortening the harvest season, reducing the number of plants that can be harvested or even banning the harvest of a particular plant altogether.

The Forest Service asks all residents to be good stewards and help ensure these plants will be available for years to come. You can help by not taking too many of any one kind of plant in a single area. The key is to leave plants behind so natural regeneration can occur.

You can collect certain forest products on parts National Forest Land provided you have obtained a proper permit from the Ranger Office. You can harvest up to 5 lbs of ramps annually without a permit.

Removing any plant or its parts from national forest land without a permit is considered theft.

Penalties for plant poaching may include a fine up to $5,000 or sentence in a federal prison, or both. Contact the Nantahala Ranger District Office for more information at 828-524-6441.