With snow disappearing from lower elevations of national forest lands, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest will begin selling commercial harvesting permits for morel mushrooms on May 1. Harvesting mushrooms for personal use — up to 5 gallons per person per day — is free.
Commercial permits are required for people who plan to collect or possess more than 5 gallons of mushrooms per day or sell mushrooms. The permits will be sold at U.S. Forest Service offices in Winthrop, Cle Elum and Naches, according to a news release from the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
A two-day permit costs $30, a 30-day permit is $80, and a season permit is $100. The season runs from May 1-July 31.
Harvesters must have permits in their possession when collecting mushrooms. Permits, and maps in six languages, are available for harvest areas in the Cedar Creek, Cub Creek 2, and Schneider Springs fire areas on the national forest. The maps are dated 2022, but the information remains the same for harvesting this year.
Although people harvesting for individual use (up to 5 gallons per day) do not need a permit, they must obtain and carry a copy of the Free Incidental Use Mushroom Information Sheet with them in lieu of a permit, according to the Forest Service.
The information sheet can be printed off the forest website at bit.ly/3ymD2cS, and is also available at local national forest offices.
Last year, 262 commercial harvesting permits, totaling $23,860, were sold for the three large fire areas that burned in 2021 — the Cedar Creek fire near Winthrop (55,842 acres); Cub Creek 2 fire near Winthrop (70,186 acres); and Schneider Spring fire near Naches (107,322 acres).
“Weather, soil moisture and soil temperature all play a role in how mushrooms develop,” said Forest Service Botanist Helen Lau. “Morels are known to have second year crops which can be more unreliable. Last year’s season was a long cool spring and a quick to hot summer. Currently, we have a nice winter snowpack which could lead to a second year flush of mushrooms in places,” Lau said.
“We recommend that harvesters leave some mushrooms so that spores can seed future mushrooms and also be food for wildlife. To minimize impacts when harvesting, don’t use rakes, dogs, pigs, or other methods to dig mushrooms. Definitely use a knife and cut the mushroom at its base instead of pulling the entire fruiting body from the ground,” Lau said.
The Minnow Ridge and White River-Irving Peak fire areas on the Wenatchee River Ranger District will be open only for personal use mushroom harvest.
“No commercial mushroom harvesting will occur in the White River and Minnow Ridge fire areas to allow district staff to focus on post-fire rehabilitation and Central Washington Initiative priorities. This will also provide personal use pickers areas to hunt for mushrooms outside of the commercial permitted areas,” said Wenatchee River District Ranger Erica Taecker.
Things to know
Mushroom harvesters should be aware of common hazards and use caution while traveling in post-fire landscapes, the forest service advised.
• Due to the snow pack, roads at higher elevations may remain impassible due to snow and debris through June. Also, rivers and creeks may be running very high and can be dangerous.
• The Forest Service advises people to be aware of surroundings in burned areas, as trees can fall without warning, especially if it is windy. Don’t park or stop for breaks or lunch in burned areas where tree limbs might fall and avoid dense patches of dead trees.
• All food should be stored in a bear resistant manner to avoid interactions with wildlife. It is a good idea to make noise so wildlife know you are in the area.
• Forest visitors searching for mushrooms should practice leave-no-trace etiquette. Commercial harvesters camping overnight are encouraged to utilize designated camps, where garbage dumpsters and toilets will be placed to minimize impacts.
Two camps will be up and running the first weekend in May in the Methow Valley Ranger District area, including the Eight Mile dispersed camping site on the west edge of the Cub Creek 2 burn area, and the Cedar Creek gravel pit on the north edge of the Cedar Creek burn area. The Naches Ranger District has not designated camping sites for commercial harvesters around the Schneider Springs burn area but will provide dumpsters and porta-potties at strategic sites.
Commercial harvesters are prohibited from camping in developed campgrounds, at trailheads, trailhead parking areas, or other high use recreation or special use areas. Mushroom harvesting is prohibited in designated Wilderness Areas.