Friday, March 30, 2012

Park Rangers Continue To Battle The Theft Of Plants In Our National Parks

People with connection to Mexico are still stealing plant resources on The Blue Ridge Parkway for monetary gain.  Below is an excerpt from the National Park Service Morning Report for March 30, 2012.

Blue Ridge Parkway
Two Convicted Of Galax Poaching

While investigating a report of a suicidal person on March 24th, a ranger
observed a driver operating a vehicle in a very suspicious manner in an
area known for galax poaching.  The ranger turned on the vehicle, and, as
he approached, saw two men exit from it and flee into the adjacent woods,
carrying duffle bags. The ranger conducted a traffic stop and subsequently
arrested the driver, identified as Oscar Rincon Reyes, of Spruce Pine,
North Carolina, for illegally harvesting galax.  Other rangers responded
and a search of the adjacent woods yielded three duffle bags containing
15,000 galax leaves.  During the investigation, one of the other subjects
was identified and an arrest warrant was obtained.  On March 27th, rangers
and Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office deputies executed the warrant and
arrested Francisco Rincon Felipe, also of Spruce Pine. Both Reyes and
Felipe appeared before the U.S. magistrate, pled guilty to conspiracy to
harvest galax, and were sentenced to 30 days in jail.  Investigation is
continuing to identify and prosecute the third conspirator. Currently,
local market value for galax leaves, used in floral arrangements, is two to
six cents per leaf.  Galax leaves are being sold for more than a dollar a
leaf in the international flora trade and is estimated that galax
harvesting is a $40 million a year industry in western North Carolina. [Tim
Francis, Pisgah District Ranger]

You can learn more about the theft of ginseng and other resources from our National Parks in the book A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks.  You can find the book at

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