This time of year many people in Western North Carolina go foraging in the forests for woodland plants and firewood but the U.S. Forest Service officials advise visitors to know the laws for picking plants and purchasing permits. Forestry officials say that poaching of ginseng has been on the rise this fall and law enforcement officers are cracking down. A series of compliance checks earlier this fall resulted in nine arrests for possession of ginseng taken from national forests either out of season or without a permit. Removing any plant or its parts from national forest land without a permit or outside of the legal harvest season is considered theft. Penalties for plant poaching may include a fine up to $5,000 or six-month sentence in federal prison or both. Firewood collection is allowed on National Forrest lands but a permit is require. For more on purchasing permits visit www.fs.us-da.gov/nfsnc.