Conserving the Appalachian medicinal plant industry
An industry based on plants that flourish in the mountains of Appalachia is at a critical crossroads. The medicinal plant industry has relied on the conservation of Appalachian forest resources for more than 300 years. There is growing and widespread concern that many of the species, on which this vibrant and substantial industry depends, are being depleted and becoming rare and endangered. The Appalachian forests, which are some of the most productive temperate hardwood forests in the world, are the principal source of more than 50 medicinal plant species that are common to the market. Residents of Appalachia have relied on the forests for their livelihood for generations. Today, medicinal plant harvesters of the region are under-represented in deciding how the forests are managed. Business owners, new harvesters, consumers, and forest mangers all have a stake in the conservation of the industry. To conserve this industry will require concerted effort to identify and communicate the implications and ramifications concerning ecological, economic and social issues, and to build programs that embrace these three pillars of sustainability. The abundance of medicinal plants that share similar forest habitats and the rich ecological diversity will require holistic conservation approaches. Collaboration and cooperation of all affected people is essential for the conservation of this important industry. As private forest lands, have traditionally received less management attention, the greatest potential for conservation may be on these holdings.