Crater Lake National Park rangers seized more than 234 pounds of illegally harvested morel mushrooms during the Fourth of July weekend. The estimated market value of the confiscated mushrooms is $7,944, but it’s likely worth much more.
National Park Service rangers worked in close collaboration with law enforcement professionals from the Oregon State Police, U.S. Forest Service, and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and made contact with dozens of individuals suspected of harvesting mushrooms. Harvesting from national parks is prohibited and can result in fines up to $5,000 and/or a maximum of 6 months in jail.
Chief Ranger Kean Mihata said, “We are thankful for the assistance of neighboring law enforcement agencies and want to remind the public that mushroom harvesting is not permitted anywhere in Crater Lake National Park. Help us keep this place intact so that ecological processes can play out naturally here. These processes are part of what makes the park special.”
During the summer of 2015 the National Creek Complex—the largest fire in the park’s recorded history—burned 20,960 acres in Crater Lake National Park and in the adjacent Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The area affected by the wildfire has been favorable for morel mushrooms.
Mushrooms, the fruiting bodies of fungi, are critical components of forest ecosystems. Fungi are an important food source for wildlife and part of the forest nutrient cycle, helping to harness, store, and recycle nutrients necessary for plant growth. Fungi also form partnerships with forest plant species that aid in the recovery of disturbed habitats, including areas burned by wildfires.
Image Courtesy NPS