B.C. First Nations regulate pickers arriving for post-wildfire mushrooms | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. First Nations regulate pickers arriving for post-wildfire mushrooms

A morel mushroom spotted during a mushroom hunt and cooking class is seen in West Bend, Wis., on May 16, 2009. A bounty of prized morel mushrooms is emerging after last year's devastating wildfires in British Columbia, but pickers hoping to cash in will be required to get permits from local First Nations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, M.L. Johnson
Original Publication Date May 18, 2018 - 9:41 AM

CACHE CREEK, B.C. - A bounty of prized morel mushrooms is emerging after last year's devastating wildfires in British Columbia, but pickers hoping to cash in will be required to get permits from two First Nations.

Chief Ron Ignace of the Secwepemc Nation said Friday that five of its 17 communities are asserting their right to manage forest resources in the area of the Elephant Hill wildfire, which scorched nearly 2,000 square kilometres of bush west of Kamloops.

The Tsilhqot'in Nation, based in Williams Lake, has also begun regulating morel pickers.

Studies, including one published in October 2016 in the online magazine Forest Ecology and Management, confirm bumper crops of lucrative, morel mushrooms can almost always be found a year after a major wildfire.

The mushrooms are often sold dried in grocery stores or fresh at farmers markets and are renowned for their earthy flavour.

Ignace said the regulations are aimed at protecting the recovering land from hundreds of pickers expected to show up until the end of July and that dozens of people had already arrived to harvest the morels.

"We're doing it in such a way that we're cautioning the buyers and pickers to be mindful of the environment, to conduct their activities in a safe and considerate way," he said from Savona, B.C.

The permits are required to harvest, buy or process morel mushrooms and to camp in the area that will be equipped with 150 portable toilets, Ignace said.

A harvesting permit costs $20, a camping permit is $30 and buyers must pay $500 for a permit to get mushrooms from the area that will be monitored daily by the Secwepemc Territorial Patrol to ensure compliance and safety.

"We don't want any accidents or harm to come to anyone," Ignace said of logging roads and other potential hazards.

"The bears are coming out of hibernation and they're very hungry, and I'd imagine they'll be eyeing up the pickers."

Chief Joe Alphonse of the Tsilhqot'in Nation said mushroom pickers left a mess a year after the 2009 wildfires, and the community started meeting months ago to try and determine how to deal with people drawn to the region's potential morel bonanza this year.

"Our community members were quite disgusted with the mushroom pickers, the mess that they left behind. These guys are supposed to be environmentalists and we found that they were some of the dirtiest, messiest people out there," he said.

"We don't have a problem with people coming into our territory but they should be respectful. When you're having to pick up beer bottles and everything else after them then there's obviously a concern."

As with the Secwepemc Nation, pickers will be charged $20 for permits and buyers setting up their businesses in the region will be have to pay $500, Alphonse said, adding anyone who doesn't have a permit will face the potential of fines from title rangers patrolling the area.

"The province has hunting permits and fishing permits and we've got mushroom permits," he said.

The Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation in Yukon also experienced the negative effects of a post-wildfire "gold rush" when morel pickers arrived in 2014, said deputy chief Ed Schultz.

"We literally had a tent city here of about 300 people who came to pick these mushrooms and they had quite an impact in terms of garbage and creating new roads and blazing ATVs around. So we just decided that we would not allow that on our lands and just allow our own citizens to pick," he said.

"For us, even though the morel pickers were on public lands they were adjacent to our lands and some of them didn't know demarcation lines and went on some of our lands. They left a lot of garbage that we had to get people out there to clean up — plastic bottles, garbage bags, debris, all kinds of things."

Schultz said he encourages other First Nations to regulate their morel-rich areas to save them from being trampled.

"There is a group of people in the country who do follow wildfires and they do come in large numbers and we experienced it. It's like gold for them."

— By Camille Bains in Vancouver; follow @CamilleBains1 on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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