Pay more attention to morel harvest |

Pay more attention to morel harvest

- Heather McGregor, managing editor

Out of the ashes will come mushrooms – or so the fungus followers say.

Spruce and fir forests burned by last summer’s Coal Seam and Spring Creek fires are now poised to become prime picking areas for the prized morel mushroom.

We just want to be sure the expected springtime morel harvest doesn’t turn into a lawless clash between itinerant harvesters, roadside buyers and recreational mushroom gatherers, which has happened in the Northwest.

White River National Forest officials are taking the potential mushroom season seriously, and rightly so.

They plan to designate a 100-acre area north of New Castle for recreational pickers, who won’t need a permit, and set a $20-a-week fee for commercial harvesters. And the agency is also planning two camping areas for itinerant gatherers.

But dealing with a commercial mushroom harvest is going to take a lot of on-the-ground enforcement.

Rangers should carefully monitor the roadside mushroom-buying stands, where money and mushrooms will change hands. They need to give careful advice to recreational mushroom pickers so they understand the culture of itinerant picking crews that may carefully guard a picking area.

Rangers should also check camping areas daily, to guard against irreparable impacts to the forest.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Department should get in on the planning and be equally well-prepared, since its deputies may be called to sort out disputes.

All this preparation could be for naught if the morels fail to flourish in numbers large enough to attract commercial gatherers, but planning for the harvest is absolutely the right thing to do.

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