Bracing for morel-crazed, money-motivated masses, forest managers are instating new permitting requirements for folks who want to commercially harvest mushrooms from the Roosevelt Fire scar.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest is taking that step partially because of a dearth of large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires, which means last fall’s Hoback Rim-area blaze could be a bullseye for big-time morel collectors willing to travel. A wet spring — which lends itself to fungi growth — could further boost the allure of combing the devastating Sublette County fire site for morels, forest spokeswoman Mary Cernicek said.
“There are like the perfect conditions, so we’re expecting a big crop,” Cernicek told the Jackson Hole Daily. “This is just a chance to get ahead of the commercial side. It has no effect to the families that go out.”
New for 2019 is a required $300 commercial morel permit that will give pickers up to 14 days to earn back the fee. Commercial pickers will be confined to a harvest area that’s limited to the northern portions of the Roosevelt Fire (see the map with this story at JHNewsAndGuide.com). All other parts of the 3.4 million-acre national forest, Cernicek said, including the Wyoming Range’s 2018 Martin Fire site, are off-limits if the end goal is to sell mushrooms.
People picking mushrooms for personal use don’t need a permit and can gather morels from anywhere, but they are capped at 3 gallons, Cernicek said.
A porous fungus that grows from 1 to 6 inches high, morels are considered a delectable springtime bounty of Mother Nature that tend to have a meaty quality. Wildfire scars, especially during the following spring, are considered a high-odds place to look for bumper crops of blooming ’shrooms.
A number of high-end Jackson Hole restaurants, such as the Snake River Grill and Rendezvous Bistro, have historically offered springtime wild morel dishes.
Since 2013, harvesting morels and other mushrooms has been banned in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway. Confusingly, the practice is perfectly legal in Yellowstone National Park to the north.
The Bridger-Teton will host an open house about its new morel rules from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Bondurant Elementary School. Landowners whose property burned in the fire are encouraged to attend.
“It’s an opportunity for private landowners to figure out how they can get a handle on things,” Cernicek said.
Commercial mushroom permits don’t go on sale until May 22, and, in the meantime, for-profit harvesting is illegal. They will be for sale at the forest’s Jackson, Big Piney and Pinedale ranger district offices. Selling or exchanging mushrooms without a permit is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or six months of jail time, according to the forest’s website.
Besides the commercial harvest area, forest officials are designating a camping area near the North Fork of Fisherman Creek that commercial mushroom pickers must stick to. The Bridger-Teton is not authorizing morel buying stations to operate on forest lands.