Over the past several years, the market for medicinal herbs has been on the rise. One of the products in demand is the bark from slippery elm trees (Ulmus rubra).
The inner layer of slippery elm bark contains a gel-like substance that is presumed to be a soothing agent for sore throat, gastrointestinal problems, and skin irritations.
“Each year, we have seen a steady increase in the number of slippery elm trees being stripped of their bark,” said Forest Botanist David Taylor with the Daniel Boone National Forest.
“For these trees, it’s a death sentence. The trees die within a year once their bark has been removed, since the inner layer of the bark provides for the flow of nutrients that sustain the tree.”
The taking of slippery elm bark from trees on national forest land is illegal. Under the 36 Code of Federal Regulations, “removing any timber, tree or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or Federal law or regulation” is prohibited (36 CFR, Section 261.6h).
“The theft of natural resources from national forest lands can lead to a species’ demise,” added Taylor.
“As an example, ginseng has been illegally removed from public lands in the eastern United States for decades, causing serious decline and even extirpation of this plant in some forest areas.”
Other forest products commonly removed from national forest lands include timber, mosses and lichens, wildflowers and rocks. None of these resources can be taken without a permit.
To help prevent the illegal taking of natural resources on national forest lands, the public is encouraged to report the theft of forest products by calling 859.745.3100.