Harvesting the Forest?
Freshly-picked matsutake mushrooms
Plentiful Pickers
Plentiful Profits
Plentiful Product?
Plentiful Product?
As with over-logging, the over-harvesting of NTFPs threatens plants and ecosystems. In other parts of the country, plants like ginseng, purple coneflower and goldenseal are in danger of being eradicated in the wild. In Oregon, special interest groups like those representing logging and mushrooms come in direct conflict over resources — a clear-cut can decimate a mushroom stand for decades.
Issues of sustainability have a basis in both ecological and cultural ramifications. The challenge of juggling the needs of the loggers, pickers, Native Americans, plants and animals who are all jostling for the same acreage may begin by determining a mechanism for measuring which groups have what sort of impact on which resources. Until we know how much grows, how much of it is picked and for how much that material is sold, viable solutions may be impossible to agree upon.
Management rulings are a challenge to create and difficult to enforce. Oune, a mushroom picker featured in Voices From the Woods, cringes when he sees inexperienced or greedy pickers raking the soil, a process which makes the hidden matsutakes easier to spot but permanently damages the underground plant that produces them, as well as other species of edible mushroom. Yet, he is afraid to challenge rakers for fear of retribution. "I could tell them [to stop], but they're going to beat me after I come [back] to the car," he says. "I can do nothing."
Some mushroom pickers suggest putting pressure on the buyers. "Pamphlets and meetings are good," says Ed, another picker. "But it all comes down to the buyers ... [authorities] say you can't pick a mushroom under one-and-a-half inches, but every buyer will buy them. But if their boss said, 'If you buy that mushroom, you'll be fired,' that guy stops and people stop picking them."
Most commercial sellers of medicinal herbs now focus on purchasing "responsibly wildcrafted" ingredients. In some cases, they are turning to cultivation (farming) to minimize environmental damage and keep up with growing production demands.
Many harvesters and logging-industry representatives are trying to create a symbiotic relationship that creates more profit and less waste. See some examples in the section, Manzanita: Coordinated Efforts = Profit.