Environmental Management

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 577–587 | Cite as

Geographic Profiling to Assess the Risk of Rare Plant Poaching in Natural Areas

  • John A. Young
  • Frank T. van Manen
  • Cindy A. Thatcher


We demonstrate the use of an expert-assisted spatial model to examine geographic factors influencing the poaching risk of a rare plant (American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius L.) in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA. Following principles of the analytic hierarchy process (AHP), we identified a hierarchy of 11 geographic factors deemed important to poaching risk and requested law enforcement personnel of the National Park Service to rank those factors in a series of pair-wise comparisons. We used those comparisons to determine statistical weightings of each factor and combined them into a spatial model predicting poaching risk. We tested the model using 69 locations of previous poaching incidents recorded by law enforcement personnel. These locations occurred more frequently in areas predicted by the model to have a higher risk of poaching than random locations. The results of our study can be used to evaluate resource protection strategies and to target law enforcement activities.


American ginseng Geospatial Model AHP Geographic profiling Poaching 



This project was funded by the National Park Service, Natural Resources Protection Program through the Appalachian Chain Demonstration Project. We thank E. Clark, J. Yorkey, D. Hurlbert, W. Cass, and A. Williams of the NPS and K. Johnson of the Institute for Conservation Law Enforcement at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia for project guidance, assistance with implementing surveys, and access to data. We also thank the conservation law enforcement rangers of the NPS for participation in the survey. We thank A. Rafter for gathering data and assisting in early versions of this modeling exercise. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the United States Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • John A. Young
    • 1
  • Frank T. van Manen
    • 2
  • Cindy A. Thatcher
    • 3
  1. 1.USGS, Leetown Science CenterKearneysvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forestry, Wildlife and FisheriesUSGS, Leetown Science Center, Southern Appalachian Research Branch, University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.USGS National Wetlands Research CenterLafayetteUSA

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