Foraging on public lands is becoming increasingly limited

Beneath a row of fir trees, River Shannon Aloia walks along a secluded dirt road on national forest land, scanning the ground for morels.

“Find him,” she orders her dog, Jasper.

The search pays off for Ms. Aloia, an avid forager: she spots a solitary honey-colored morel and picks it.

“Foraging changes your relationship with nature,” she said. “You’re in the woods using all your senses. And it’s rewarding to be able to identify something, take it home and prepare it for your family.

Spring in the northern hemisphere is a favorite time of year for gatherers like Ms. Aloia. It is especially popular in the American West because of the millions of acres of public land that give pickers the freedom to move and harvest as they please.

Once the snow melts, a variety of mushrooms begin to appear above ground: oyster mushrooms, royal boletes and several types of morels. A profusion of flowers and other edible and medicinal plants, including wild onions and asparagus, fiddleheads, nettles and mining lettuce, are also highly sought after.

Come summer, the berry harvest awaits you in the western Rockies: chokecherries, wild strawberries and plump, purple blueberries. In late summer and fall, other wild crops emerge, such as piñon or pine nuts in the southwest and mushrooms like chicken of the woods, shaggy manes, and the prized matsutake .

Although most national parks prohibit commercial foraging, about three-quarters allow people to explore and harvest their favorite crops for personal use. Individual parks set limits each year, some like Death Valley in California and Nevada limit the collection of foods like nuts and berries to one liter per day, and only for personal consumption. Foraging is completely prohibited in about a quarter of all national parks.

But things are changing in the woods, worrying those who have for years enjoyed the seasonal taste of foods growing in the wild and the connection between foraging and centuries of dependence on natural habitats.

Foraging has become so popular since the pandemic that state and federal agencies are considering whether to impose additional restrictions.

Some prominent foragers, both for personal and commercial food, say more and more public lands are being declared off-limits, especially in places where wildfires have devastated forest lands.

Their concern is based on the increasingly widespread attraction to a striking ecological phenomenon: charred landscapes and disturbed soils provide ideal conditions for morels to thrive in abundance. This attracted growing crowds who invaded the scorched lands in the spring following the previous year’s great wildfire, and the number of people foraging became far too large to manage, officials say.

“Here in Oregon, they rarely closed burns before the pandemic,” said Trent Blizzard, president of the association. North American Mycological Associationwho, with his wife Kristen, runs The Modern Forager website. “But for three or four years, they have…

Read Complete News ➤

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

9 − 5 =