(Long) Forest Products Conference, 1994

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at ipns.com
Mon Aug 13 09:12:07 EST 2001


(Following is a summary of the January 1994 conference on special
forest products in Hillsboro, Oregon. Contact Ron Post, PSMS, (206)
525-9082, for more details.)

	What is a special forest product? Basically, anything that grows in a
forest besides timber that someone is willing to pay for. A commercial
display at the conference identified 45 products beside fungi with
current commercial value! Another, less reputable estimate put the
number at 150.
	According to Jim Freed of the Washington State University Extension
Office in Shelton, Washington, the market for special forest products
is increasing dramatically. Japan, for example, is looking to the
Pacific Northwest as a source for thousands of species of fungi seen
as medicinal or edible. Before commercial interest in these products,
harvesting was "just like a mining operation." Now, research into what
products exist on which lands is a must, as is a resource management
	Special forest products fall into two general categories: floral
greens and wild mushrooms. According to Keith Blatner (WSU), at least
675,000 acres on the west side of the Cascades is available for the
harvest of floral greens such as salal, bear grass, evergreen
huckleberry, holly, moss, sword fern, dwarf Oregon grape, noble fir
boughs, and products from red cedar, white pine, and Douglas fir. On
the east side, baby's breath and subalpine fir are harvested. In the
tri-state area of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, floral greens are
worth $128 million (1989 figures), and the industry involves up to
10,000 people annually on a part-time or full-time basis. Where do the
greens go? The U.S. accounts for 52%, Europe for 24%, local and
regional markets for about 18%, and the Pacific Rim for about 4%.
	According to Bill Schlosser (Coop. Ext., Orofino, Idaho), wild
mushrooms in the tri-state area were worth about $41 million (1992
figure). Fifty percent of that went to harvesters, 30% went to
overhead, and an estimated 7% was profit. The 1992 harvest, in pounds,
for the tri-state area was

Morels, 78,000; Chanterelles 553,000; Matsutake 275,000; Boletes,
64,000; Others, 14,000
Morels, 900,000; Chanterelles 581,000; Matsutake, 450,000; Boletes,
370,000; Others, 150,000
Moresl 334,000; Chanterelles, 0; Matsutake, 99,000; Boletes, 47,000;
Others, 4,000.

	Overall, about 17% of mushroom harvesters are involved in picking
other special forest products. About 13% are or were involved in the
logging industry. Just over 25% are or were involved with the welfare
system or collected unemployment. About half are Caucasion, about 40%
Asian or Pacific Islanders.
	Where do the mushrooms go? The western U.S. accounts for 27% of the
market, Asia for 28%, Europe and points nearby for 25%, and the
eastern U.S. and Canada for the rest. The markets vary by species: 24%
of the Matsutake, for example, go to Canada.
	A number of landowners and tree farmers called for inventories and
management plans for special forest products. And a number of them
agreed that the resources exist to accomplish this but "no one is
talking to each other." One landowner compared the special forest
products industry to a "scared covey of quail."
	Anecdotally, here are a few examples from the conference on how the
industry has grown (blossomed? mushroomed?).
	1. The Forest Service publishes guides to making a living by
harvesting special forest products and is actively engaged in reacting
to demands for "sustainable" yields of special forest products.
	2. In a few areas, Federal permits for mushroom pickers were
increasing 200-300%, or more, from one year to the next.
	3. Pressure is on lawmakers to keep regulation off the heads of the
commercial interests. There was a lot of talk about "too much
regulation." I say, "Hah! Show me!"
	4. Big land owners such as Weyerhauser are investigating ways to get
a more varied economic gain from their lands, but they are worried
about the industry being "unreliable" and especially about liability,
safety, and labor issues.
	5. There is growing pressure for long-term leasing of "rights" to
pick mushrooms and other special forest products, even on public
lands. I'm keeping my eye on this. My feeling is that the public
cannot be excluded from public lands, whether commercial interest or
pot hunter. Right now, limits are being placed on both, and as far as
I know there is no attempt yet to promote "exclusivity." But let's
stay aware!
	6. Partly because of haphazard attempts to regulate the mushroom
industry, special forest products have received less attention from
the law-enforcement branch of the government than from other branches
(in Washington, but not Oregon).
	7. Washington State law-enforcement agencies are responsible for
protecting the rights of landowners, not mushroom processors. This
point was made by more than one speaker, and it is one we should all
remember as the hordes descend. It is easy to assume that everyone
feels it's okay to harvest everythying off public lands. This is not
the case. In the Winema National Forest, for instance, one manager
attempts to rotate sections of commercially valuable mushroom lands in
and out of the harvest. This is, indeed, a conservation approach.
Let's support this type of thing!
	8. There was general agreement that two trends are occurring right
now, but much disagreement about their specifics: (1) The "wild wild
west" period of harvesting mushrooms and other forest products is
inevitable (if it hasn't happened - or ended - already) (2) Because of
the increasing number of harvesters, it's time NOW to gather baseline
data and start research into a number of special forest products.
Margaret Dilly saw this coming a decade ago, and we can think her for
	9. The Oregon Mycological Society conservation committee has made an
excellent survey of their membership. I'll copy one of their
newsletters and make it availabe at PSMS meetings.

>From Puget Sound Mycological Society newsletter, Spore Prints, March
1994, Seattle, WA. Reprinted in NATS Current News, Vol. 12, No. 2,
Apr-May 1994.

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B Wheeler

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