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Wisconsin DNR Board Talks Ginseng, Being ‘Open For Business’

Recommendations To Increase Penalties For Poaching Wild Ginseng, Increase Spending For Park Improvement Given At DNR Board Meeting

wild ginseng
Eugene Kim (CC-BY)

A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden says penalties for poaching wild ginseng are too weak.

The state Natural Resources Board discussed both cultivated and wild ginseng plants in a meeting Wednesday. The discussion was in response to points made by board member Dr. Frederick Prehn about increased demand for ginseng with Foxconn coming to Wisconsin.

Prehn said last month, that with the Taiwanese flat-screen TV manufacturing company coming to the state, there will be more interest in harvesting ginseng and sending it overseas.

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At the board meeting, Eric Grudzinski, a Special Investigative Warden for the DNR, showed a bag of ginseng roots and suggested the market pays well for illegally taking wild ginseng.

“Right now, a first offense ginseng violation is around $343.50. And the bag of ginseng I just passed around — seven-tenths of a pound — is (worth) roughly $560. So, if i went out and harvested this in one day, I get caught, I get a ticket, I pay my citation, I’m still making money,” Grudzinski said.

Based on the discussion, the DNR says it will make recommendations about ginseng penalties to the Board or state lawmakers going forward.

At the same meeting, DNR board members talked about the impact state spending on improving parks and other facilities has on the local economy.

Preston Cole, a current board member, was first appointed by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Republican Gov. Scott Walker re-appointed Cole four years ago.

At the meeting Cole questioned the status of the state slogan that Wisconsin government is “Open For Business.” Cole pointed to limited state spending to improve state parks and other property.

Cole told the bard that capital improvements help stimulate the surrounding areas — giving boost to local economics. He wants to see DNR officicals helping to empahsize that.

“If in fact we are ‘Open for Business,’ we should act like we’re open for business, we should institutionalize these types of things in our planning effort.” Cole said.

The DNR Board agreed that it will take a closer look at the connection between investing in DNR properties and the payoff for local recreation-oriented companies in December.

Also at the meeting the DNR Board OK’d adding sport motor trails across Wisconsin’s Northern forests and green-lighted the process necessary to drop the elk hunt population quota.