The National Park Service (NPS) reminds visitors that the harvest of ramps, wild leeks, in Catoctin Mountain Park is illegal and kills native plants. Foraging for ramps has become popular in the Eastern United States, and the NPS has seen an increase in illegal harvesting in Catoctin Mountain Park.
In addition to being illegal, the collection of ramps in the park threatens the plant’s long-term viability. Harvesting ramps typically involves the removal of the entire plant from the root up. This makes it far more difficult for the ramp population to regenerate compared to other natural products that can be harvested like berries or mushrooms. Studies show that if ramps are harvested, it can take several years for ramp patches to recover. The NPS is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the natural beauty and ecosystems within Catoctin Mountain Park.
Visitors are allowed to gather by hand, for personal consumption, some berries and edible mushrooms as long as they gather no more than one-half gallon per person, per day. These berries include blackberries, raspberries, wineberries, dewberries, and blueberries.
In 2022, the NPS issued multiple violation notices for illegal harvesting and increased efforts to raise awareness of park regulations around ramp harvesting. In doing so, the park joins other eastern national parks in focusing attention and effort on the problem of illegal ramp harvesting.
“As more people explore and enjoy Catoctin Mountain Park, it’s especially important that visitors follow park regulations and help us protect the park’s plants, wildlife, and historic resources,” Rick Slade, Catoctin Mountain Park superintendent, said. “If you see something that looks out of place during your visit to the park, please let us know.”
To report illegal plant harvesting or any other potentially illegal activity, please call National Park Service dispatch center at 301-714-2235. Illegal harvesting of park resources can lead to a maximum fine of $5,000 and six months in jail.