A case study of stakeholder perspective and experience with wild American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) conservation efforts in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Limitations to a CITES driven, top-down regulatory approach

Eric P. Burkhart, Michael G. Jacobson, James Finley

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Following its inclusion in Appendix II of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the harvest, sale and trade of wild ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) for international commerce has been restricted by law in Pennsylvania since the late 1980s. Since then, exports from the state have declined driving the need to better understand the impact of CITES listing and related state and federal laws. Between 2004 and 2010, we conducted a mixed-methods study in Pennsylvania of stakeholder perspectives on state and federal government conservation efforts and experiences relating to enforcement of harvest and trade restrictions. Results from a survey, key informant interviews, and facilitated group discussions indicate widespread support for ginseng conservation efforts but, not with the CITES driven, top-down regulatory approach. It was widely asserted that ginseng stewardship has been, and will continue to be, governed by personal experience, family teachings, and industry norms and not CITES driven restrictions per se. Moreover, study participants were unable to cite instances where prosecution for ginseng-related "crimes" had occurred within their networks and most believed laws are an ineffective deterrent to "bad behavior." This emic is externally validated by the fact that agency enforcement is constrained by limited personnel and jurisdictional boundaries, not least of which is an inability to enforce on private lands in the state. These findings suggest that a CITES driven regulatory approach has limitations in actually conserving wild ginseng in Pennsylvania, and suggests that this approach should be complemented by stakeholder supported "bottom-up" partnerships involving greater stakeholder participation, such as government-sponsored or supported ginseng planting programs to counter over-exploitation by collectors and/or extirpation resulting from habitat loss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3657-3679
Number of pages23
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number14
StatePublished - Oct 30 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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