USA — The Forest Service is preparing for a spring influx of people who wantto gather morel mushrooms on the agency’s lands scorched by fires last summer.
Burned lands are conducive to morels, which bring profit as stand-alonedelicacies and as complements to other foods.
Flathead National Forest officials are taking public comment until March 7 ona proposal for a commercial mushroom season about 20 miles west of Whitefish.Picking would be on nearly 25,000 acres burned by the Brush Creek fire in 2007.
“Experience has shown us that people will arrive en masse after a fire toharvest mushrooms,” said Lisa Timchak, ranger for the forest’s Tally LakeDistrict.
“We have a responsibility to manage this situation by providing reasonableharvest opportunities while minimizing the impacts to the resources, includingthe social impacts.”
Mushroom harvesting often draws people who want to camp near the harvestlocations. The camping can raise social and environmental issues. Other concernsinclude rivalries over access to what are considered the best places to fillcontainers with “shrooms.”
The Brush Creek Mushroom Project proposal includes a system for issuing harvestpermits.
People gathering fewer than 5 gallons a day would not be charged. Commercialpickers would pay fees. Camping would be confined to designated places and wouldrequire a permit. Flathead forest officials already have identified thecampsites.
“The forest dealt with a large mushroom program after the 2003 wildlandfires, and we learned a great deal about mushroom harvesting and how to managethis forest product program,” Timchak said. The year after those fires, some ofthe many pickers drawn to the woods armed themselves to protect territory towhich they believed they were entitled.
Timchak expects the morel harvest to begin in April and continue into July.