Bill could do away with personal-use permits for huckleberries, other forest products


Reps. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washougal, and Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Oregon, last week introduced legislation that would make it easier to harvest special products from national forests such as mushrooms, berries and Christmas trees.

A news release from Gluesenkamp Perez’s office calls the co-sponsored bill the “Special Forest Products Program Reauthorization Act.”

The U.S. Forest Service Special Forest Products pilot program currently allows the public to harvest natural forest resources for personal or commercial use after they’ve obtained a permit or paid a fee.

Some permits are free to obtain. The Special Forest Products Program Reauthorization Act would, according to the release, direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make the program permanent and standardize fees and permits required to participate, making the fees enough to recover a portion of fair market value of the harvest; exempt individuals harvesting products for personal use from having to acquire a permit or pay a fee; and exempt tribes gathering products for medicinal use or traditional purposes from having to acquire a permit or pay a fee.

The proposal already has support from the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative, which is based in the Vancouver area.

While he was not speaking for the whole collaborative, John O’Brien, a Cowlitz Indian Tribe member and a member of the Pinchot Partners on the northern half of the Southwest Washington forest, was also supportive of the legislation.

“Tribes and tribal members should be allowed to gather cultural and traditional products,” O’Brien said.

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest, O’Brien said, “has the largest special forest products program in the country and provides considerable income for the forest. I hope this would not adversely affect that.”

He said he’s OK with personal-use permits for gathering when permits are free because it helps the Forest Service to track visitors and other data.

“Part of being responsible stewards of the woods is making sure that everyone is able to take advantage of the resources that the woods provide,” Gluesenkamp Perez said in the news release. “This bipartisan bill ensures access for folks looking to harvest special forest products and help us keep our symbiotic relationship with the woods.”

Both Joshua Petit, director of the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative, and Jay McLaughlin, director of the Mount Adams Resource Stewards, echoed Gluesenkamp Perez’s statements in the news release.

“The value of special forest products from our national forests for many of our rural communities and tribes is tremendous,” McLaughlin said.