Wiebke Fur and Trading Company fined in illegal ginseng activity

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) -- An area company is dealing with fines after the state said it participated in illegal ginseng activity.

Wiebke Fur and Trading Company has stores in La Crosse and Eitzen, Minnesota.

Wisconsin DNR Conservation Warden Edward McCann said the investigation showed Wiebke Fur and Trading Company bought ginseng from harvesters who weren’t licensed.

He said the harvesters would get a license after the sale.

“It’s analogous of someone coming in, and registering a deer, but buying a license at the time they’re registering a deer after they already killed it,” said McCann.

McCann said the company also falsified its certificate of origin to transport the ginseng across state lines.

He said he doesn’t know when all of this started, but it was going on from at least 2009 to 2011.

The Wisconsin DNR started investigating Wiebke in 2011 after talking with harvesters who weren’t licensed when they were harvesting.

“And from talking with those individuals they then led us to this company,” said McCann.

Ginseng is a plant that’s shipped overseas to many Asian countries.

It’s used in products like tea and herbal remedies.

The DNR has size limits on plants that can be harvested.

If a plant is harvested before it has a chance to seed, then you lose the ability to have plants in the future.

“I think other companies need to realize that Wisconsin is very serious about enforcing our ginseng laws, and protecting this rare, but yet valuable plant,” said McCann.

Wiebke E-mailed us a statement saying they work to follow laws and regulations.

The statement also said “Unfortunately in this occasion we misinterpreted the regulations which we feel were not clearly written. We have accepted our penalty, but are disappointed the Wisconsin DNR knew of our procedure for two years before citing us with these violations.”

McCann said Wiebke will pay $50,000 in fines and $50,000 in restitution to the Wisconsin DNR.

The company is also banned from being involved in the ginseng industry until August 6, 2015.

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