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Feds jail ginseng poacher as wild plants face risk

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- Broke and down on his luck, Billy Joe Hurley turned to the only way he knew how to make a living: poaching ginseng.

But after his latest in a long string of arrests, federal prosecutors had enough.

They told a U.S. magistrate Thursday that poaching by Hurley and others in the national forests in western North Carolina has dramatically reduced the numbers of wild ginseng -- a humble looking plant whose roots can fetch more than $900 a pound.

Prosecutor David Thorne said they needed to send a message: Illegal ginseng harvesting won't be tolerated.

Hurley, 46, of Bryson City, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 5

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