Special "Pilot Program" from the USFS

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Tue Feb 15 10:31:28 EST 2000

In article <Mh5q4.13197$OJ1.1758907 at tw12.nn.bcandid.com>,
  "Rex Swartzendruber" <rexs13 at hotmail.takethispartout.com> wrote:
> A bill passed by the US Congress (text follows) that includes a provision
> for charging "temporary" fees for collecting Special Forest Products (SFP)
> from Federal land was signed into law by the President. The products that
> this law deals with were formerly called Incidental Forest Products because
> the agencies involved did not see any appreciable value in them. This has
> changed with the decrease of revenue from timber sales in the increase in
> total market proceeds from the SFPs in the past decade.
> While there are currently fees associated with commercial collection of
> SFPs, industry insiders believe that the effect of this law will be to
> increase the fees. There is very little profit margin for the labor
> (collectors and buying stand operators) in the related industries at the
> current level of fee collection. Take mushrooms for example:
> The collector buys a commercial collection permit for each Forest Service
> District or BLM Resource Management Area. The collector pays for this permit
> whether or not they actually are able to locate any mushrooms. These permits
> are not cheap, often around $200 per district and are not transferable from
> one district to the next. The collector also pays for food, fuel, lodging
> and vehicle maintenance. The collector sells to the person at the buying
> station for whatever the market price happens to be that day.
> The buying station operator gets a small commission ($.15 to $.25 per pound
> for some types of mushrooms, up to $1.00 per pound for others) from the
> wholesaler with whom they contract to sell the mushrooms that they buy. The
> buying station operator either obtains a permit from the resource district,
> again neither cheap nor transferable, or sets up shop in locations outside
> of the forest requiring additional purchases of space rental and business
> licenses. The buying station operator also pays for their own food, fuel,
> lodging, vehicle maintenance, employees and takes the risk of degraded
> products or unexpected market fluctuations.
> The US markets are mostly for fresh, top grade products and are very
> limited. The wholesalers ship most of the products to distributors in the
> main market places of Europe and Japan.  As this is a world market, the
> domestic industry is in direct competition at home and abroad with countries
> that have few environmental standards and use cheap or slave labor, such as
> China, to provide the same products. The market price is set by world supply
> and demand, not corporate whim or domestic policy making.
> Several weeks ago, some US Forest Service Ranger Districts here in Oregon
> were approached about the availability of commercial permits to collect
> mushrooms starting in March (morel season is JUST around the corner). Some
> of these districts indicated that they will no longer be issuing permits for
> collection of any type of SFP as a result of this new law. Due to the number
> of calls that they have been receiving, some have relented and will issue
> permits for at least this year. After the law is interpreted and rules of
> policy are written and adopted over the next year, some districts will
> choose not to implement the new rules and will stop issuing permits. The
> Tillamook Resource Area of the BLM has chosen to do this due to the Clinton
> Forest Plan (they have not stopped clear cutting, just personal and
> commercial mushroom harvesting).
> Of course, the result of intensive study could be that the fee requirements
> are dropped or restructured. It would be beneficial to the collectors and
> less expensive for the districts involved to issue permits that would be
> valid for a set period of time and would transfer from district to district.
> The BLM system in place in western Oregon charges pickers by the pound for
> mushrooms. The permits usually cost 10% of the price at the beginning of the
> season (traditionally the highest price of the season). This can be a real
> hardship for the collectors when the market price of the mushrooms falls to
> 50% to 75% less than the season opening prices during the peak of the
> season. The typical BLM SFP permit costs several times more for the staff to
> process the paperwork than the permit costs.  It would cost less to stop
> issuing permits and to let the industry regulate its own affairs (less law
> enforcement costs).
> The "pilot program" is supposed to "conduct appropriate analyses to
> determine whether and how the harvest of forest botanical products on
> National Forest System lands can be conducted on a sustainable basis."
> Currently, it is difficult to manage the SFP resources as no inventory is
> available and as in the case of fungi production, the inventory fluctuates
> seasonally.  Perhaps it would benefit the resource managers, collectors and
> buyers for the resource districts to issue free permits in exchange for
> collection information that would be completed upon delivery of the
> products.
> If the fees are increased for commercial SFP permits, the real winners will
> be the foreign commercial interests that will be able to sell their products
> to our markets both abroad and domestically without the extra layer of
> bureaucracy that this "pilot program" will require. The time for public
> input may already be past but with pressure from collectors, buyers,
> wholesalers and consumers on our congressmen and the US Forest Service
> during the interpretation and policy making phase of the plan, the outcome
> may yet be favorable.
> Partial text of Law follows.
Thanks for posting this, Rex.

There are two ways of looking at this newly enacted law. 1) Another tax
on SPFs. 2) A fee for valuable assets removed from federal property.

As mushroom hunters, we both know most of the commercial mushroom
industry is based, to quote Dr. William Dennison, "on theft". For over a
decade (first mushroom harvesting I have record of for commercial
purposes in Oregon forests goes much further back than just 1990) the
fees charged by the USFS has not paid for much of anything. With the
advent of the Record of Decision for the Northern Spotted Owl, the USFS
was mandated to do a survey of all species on the ROD. This has not been
done because there were no funds allocated for such purpose.

In reality, this law may be a blessing in disguise. Private forest
managers will now have a strong economic interest to develop mushroom
leases on their own property. Land which was previously off-limits to
commercial mushroom hunters may become immediately available with the
increased prices mushrooms are sure to command. And those prices
_should_ be uniform across the country, not just in the PNW where there
is a history of production.

If harvesting on USFS land were to stop tomorrow, prices for the
remaining harvesters who lease forest land for mushroom harvest should
do well. These private forest owners in turn will have an economic
incentive to continue managing their forest lands not just for timber
production, but also for _any_ SFP: including fungi, boughs, florals,
herbs, nursery plants and other commodities.

In my opinion, it is time for the SFP industries to grow up. China is
not able to produce the fungi, boughs, florals or other SFPs mentioned
above for markets (although they may well want to). Private forest
managers OTOH have a vested interest to see this law carried out. It
should change the emphasis from USFS lands which have not been
cultivated (natural production) to private forest owners whose land
_has_ been inoculated to produce these valuable SFPs. Those land owners
will do well to keep a pulse on the industry to prevent charges which
could kill the golden goose.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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