Wildfires produce bumper crop of morel mushrooms

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Behold the mighty morel mushroom! Laboratory Manager of Mineral Community Hospital, Sara Buchanan, picked the mother of all morel mushrooms earlier this month while in the Lolo National Forest in Mineral County. (Photo courtesy of Sara Buchanan)

Several National Forests in Montana and northern Idaho began issuing permits for mushroom harvesting on May 7. The following units will be issuing both personal-use and commercial permits:

All Ranger District offices of the Lolo and Kootenai National Forests, the Tally Lake Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest, the Lincoln Ranger District of the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, and the Bonners Ferry Ranger District and the Sandpoint Ranger District of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.

The remaining Ranger District offices across the Northern Region in Montana and northern Idaho, will be administering permits only for personal use. Those interested in harvesting only small amounts, up to 1 gallon per day with a maximum of five gallons (about two grocery bags) total for the season, may do so without procuring a physical permit. This is considered Incidental-Use and will be allowed throughout the Northern Region on all National Forest System lands.

Personal-Use permits are required for those harvesting more than five gallons for the season. There are two types of Personal-Use permits available, depending upon the total amount of mushrooms (in gallons) that one desires to harvest for the year. Please see the Northern Region mushroom management website for more information: http://bit.ly/r1mushrooms.

Those harvesting should also remember that mushrooms harvested using Incidental-Use or Personal-Use permits must be cut in half lengthwise to identify them as non-commercially harvested and the sale of those mushrooms is prohibited.

Commercial mushroom harvest is planned for all or portions of the following fires: Sunrise, Sheep Gap, Moose Peak, Caribou, West Fork, Deep Creek, and Rice Ridge. The Commercial-Use season is slated to run from May 7 – July 7. A Commercial-Use permit purchased at any of the above listed District offices is valid for harvesting mushrooms in all of the fire areas designated for commercial harvest. Detailed information packages are available at each of the permit issuing offices and also on the Northern Region website. All holders of Commercial-Use permits wishing to camp on National Forest System lands may do so, but only in the previously designated commercial camping areas as depicted in the commercial information packages. Purchase of a commercial camping permit is also required to provide for sanitation services at these sites.

Mushroom gatherers are required to follow the rules provided in each Forest’s Motor Vehicle Use Map and are encouraged to obtain that map - which is free - at the District office where their permit is purchased. Roads that are normally closed will not be opened for mushroom harvesting.

The morel mushroom fruiting season typically varies depending on local weather conditions, but generally once soil temperatures consistently exceed 40O F mushrooms will begin to appear.

Forest officials are asking all mushroom harvesters to abide by resource protection rules, especially the 16-day stay limit in place for camping and the Special Order for food storage requirements to prevent wildlife encounters. In general, harvesters should maintain and leave behind a clean camp.

The Northern Region will be active in enforcing mushroom permit rules as well as the rules and regulations that protect resources. An increased law enforcement presence at all public and commercial campgrounds and Commercial-Use harvest areas will help the Region better manage potential impacts.

Mushroom harvesters should be aware of the different types of mushrooms and be able to distinguish morels from other mushrooms which may be poisonous.

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