DNR: Ginseng theft is common, but hard to catch - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

DNR: Ginseng theft is common, but hard to catch

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A Central City man is facing literally hundreds of charges for allegedly taking 134 Ginseng plants from a Dubuque County State Park.

On September 14, an Iowa DNR Officer said he caught Allan Gates walking out of White Pine Hollow State Preserve with a cloth bag and a small shovel.

Gates originally told officers that he was going for a walk, but later informed officers he had been harvesting ginseng.

According to the criminal complaint, Gates bag contained 106 ginseng roots without the stem attached to the root, 16 roots of 3 prong stems attached, and 12 roots with less than 3 prong stems attached.

Iowa DNR officer, Nate Johnson, said he's aware people are out in public properties harvesting ginseng illegally, but he said it's hard to catch violators in the act.

"We know it happens a lot, but these guys are pretty hard to catch when they're out here doing it," said Johnson.

Johnson said ginseng is valuable and primarily sold to Asian markets as a natural Medicine. However, he said this year the ginseng prices have dropped to about $300 a pound compared to previous years when ginseng would sell for $800 a pound.

"We've had a really wet season and the ginseng is growing really well so guys are able to find more it," said Johnson.

Johnson said it's shows like the History Channel's reality show, "Appalachian Outlaws", that's exposed the ginseng market to hundreds of people. He said it's also maybe sparking more illegal poaching.

"A lot of people see it as a sort of fast cash that they can go out there and grab some plants off of whatever grounds they can get into," said Johson.

Gates will be facing theft and illegal harvesting charges. He's set to appear at the Dubuque District Court on November 3, 2014.

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