Special Forest Products

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Sun Sep 3 01:35:00 EST 2000

I just re-read this article in the Fungal Jungal, Issue 12 (Editor Larry
Evans, available from editor at Box 7306, Missoula, MT 59807).

	The April 6-8 meeting at Missoula's Holiay Inn brought into focus
the importance of Special Forest Products, especially mushrooms, in the
creation of sustainable economy in our area. At this conference, Bill
Schlosser of Orofino, ID presented statistics which indicated that OR,
ID, and WA mushroom processors were processing lots more mushrooms than
were harvested in those states. Where do these mushrooms come from?
Montana? And where do they go? The western US gets 27%, Asia gets 28%,
Europe accounts for 25%, and the eastern US and Canada buy the rest. Ron
Post, in an article for the SCMS Mushroomer, mentioned that large land
owners like Weyerhauser Corp. are investigating way to get more varied
economic gain from their land holdings, and that pressue is mounting for
long-term leasing of mushroom and SFP permits, even on public lands. He
feels that the public cannot be excluded from public lands, whether they
are commercial interests or pothunters, but he notes that limits are
currently being placed on both, and he also notes that law enforcement of
SPF varies from state to state and is often irregular. In any case,
permit requests in Oregon and Washington are increasing by 200-300
percent, and a varity of people are picking mushrooms for profit. 17% of
these mushroom pickers also harvest other forest products, like beargrass
or huckleberries, 13% are or were involved in logging, and 25% had
collected welfare or unemployment.
	Special Forest Products is an issue of growing concern. In a recent
letter, Representative Pat Williams wrote me that he is considering
legislation "to set up a revolving fund at the local level of the forest
Service in which receipts from those (SFP) sales would be used to prepare
additional sales of so-called 'special products.' My hope is that this
will generate jobs and local economic activity in products other than
	It is clear that politicians and bureaucrats both are concerned
about this "new economy" in western Montana. If we are to encourage local
business development rather than allowing Montana to remain a "colony" of
out-of-state mushroom harvesting operations, we need to have the state of
Montana recognize commerce in wild mushrooms as a legitimate (legal)
	Of the legislation that I have read regarding commerce in mushrooms,
the most simple and effective is the policy effected by the state of
Michigan. In this state, a person employed as a mushroom identifier, or a
person who makes his living selling mushrooms, may apply for a permit to
sell and buy wild mushrooms.
	This commercial permit is offered at a reasonable cost to state
residents, somewhat like a deer hunting permit, must be renewed annually,
and can be revoked or refused if the permit holder violates the
conditions by selling poisonous or improperly identified samples.
Furthermore, there might be 2 different classes of licenses. Whereas
morels are commonly recognized and constitute the main business in
mushrooms, these permits should be free to non-commercial pothunters and
be free or very cheap for residents. If out-of-state commercial interests
seek to exploit a rich bounty of morels, a higher cost out-of-state
permit might discourage them.
	Since mushrooms such as truffles, and exotic species which have
medicinal value, are more difficult to identify, the state might require
a special permit to trade in these mushrooms.
	The main objections to a more open law regarding the sale of
mushrooms come from those charged with protecting the public health and
sanitation. These people have a very legitimate concern that casual trade
in fungi might result in unidentified or poisonous mushrooms being served
in a public facility, and it is important that offering the sale of wild
mushrooms is not a threat to the public health.
	But states with more liberal mushroom vending laws have not suffered
an onslaught of lawsuits stemming from food poisoning, rather they have
recognized some serious income from trade in these mushrooms. Oregon's
Department of Agriculture statistics show that $200 million worth of
mushrooms left there last year.
	While responsibility and accountability are undeniably important,
the creation of a bulwark of legislation "regulating" mushroom and
special forest products will only serve to force these economies further
underground. It is unproductive and backwards to ignore or outlaw the
existence of the SFP industries when they are operating successfully in
nearby states. Instead, it will serve to attract these sorts of
industries to locate in Montana by creating an environment friendly to
these non-polluting, sustainable, and high-employment industries.
	I hope to propose the creation of the Western Montana Mushroom Co-
operative, a self-governing non-profit organization that promotes the
safe preparation and consumption of gourmet mushrooms, and would
encourage the creation and development of mushroom and SFP industries in
the state. Unfortunately, such an organization would be instantly illegal
because its goal would be to further an illegal enterprise, namely the
selling of "wild mushrooms" to the public.

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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