WA State Personal Use
Mushroom Harvesting Rules
Washington state is divided into numerous federal, state, local and Native American jurisdictions. Each jurisdiction has its own rules (or not) and its own way of publishing and enforcing these rules (or not.) Those rules also occasionally change. For example, Washington state law was changed in 2005 and the effects of that change slowly spread through the various districts over the next several years. Some districts also regularly change details each year in response to conditions like previous year fire locations.
Generally the direct approach to finding what rules apply is to call the lowest level (district, area, park, etc.) manager and ask. Call during weekdays and not near the lunch hour and if the person answering seems uncertain ask for a supervisor or someone that issues permits.
What to ask for:
- permit requirements
- number of harvesting days allowed per year
- any other special rules
Also check the web pages, any pamphlets or guides, and the details on or attached to permits (these are all different from district to district). Some jurisdictions also have maps that show areas inside the district where collecting is and is not allowed or where recent fires were. In addition to the mushroom collecting specific rules, there also may be access limitations (roads closed to vehicles at certain dates) and special area closures. Look for notices posted at campgrounds and trailheads. Organized groups also need to contact the district offices and may need to obtain special permits.
Permits and Limits
Personal use means mushrooms collected for ones own use and not sold, bartered or given away. Incidental use means mushrooms collected incidentally to other activities such as for immediate use. Some jurisdictions prohibit all mushroom collecting. Many juridictions allow harvesting mushroom for incidental use up to a limit of typically one quart to one gallon without a permit. Some allow collecting mushrooms for personal use typically up to one to five gallons, sometimes requiring a permit. Deviating from those definitions or exceeding the limits requires an educational or commercial permit (where allowed). See the Permit and Limits columns on the rules sheet for details.
Anyone interested in commercial collecting will need to contact the district office and find the buyers. Permits, fees, and many rules are different for commercial collecting. Also if you transport more than five gallons of mushrooms out of the forest you will need a permit from the local sheriff's office. The PSMS Washington State Personal Use Mushroom Harvesting Rules sheet is not intended to address commercial harvesting rules.
Some districts do not limit the time of the year when harvesting is done but some have specific seasons such as just the spring. Some that require permits put a specific period on the permit such as two weeks. In some cases you can divide the yearly limit between more than one period on different permits but note that the amount on the permit counts toward the yearly limit even if you do not get that many. Some districts specify a specific number of days on the permit but let you choose those days in an optionally nonconsecutive manner. In those cases you are supposed to enter the date on the record part of the permit at the start of the day and the amount before leaving the forest. The day then counts even if you don't get any. See the Season column on the rules sheet for details.
Some districts allow harvesting anywhere in the district but other prohibit harvesting in some areas such as wilderness areas or areas called Late Successional Reserves (old growth forests) or Research Natural Areas (areas set aside for research) or in campgrounds. In those cases the district should have a detailed map that illustrates where mushrooms can be harvested, which may be the same map used by wood cutters. Some districts are completely closed to harvesting mushrooms such as the North Cascades National Park and state Natural Area Preserves. See the Closures column on the rules sheet for details.
The Forest Service now has a Special Status Species List and the Bureau of Land Management has a Strategic Species List and a Federally Threatened, Endangered, and Proposed Species List which prohibit collecting certain species of plants and mushrooms in certain districts. For a description of our State's Conservation policies and the program concerning lands regulated by the Bureau of Land Management please click here. State parks permit collecting only edible mushrooms. Some districts have special rules or limits for specific species such as cutting matsutake in half vertically (to prove they are not intended for sale). See the Species column on the rules sheet for details.
About the Rules Sheet
The Washington State Personal Use Mushroom Harvesting Rules sheet contains as much mushroom collecting specific rules and information as could be fit on one double sided sheet. Note the table of details, the footnotes, the general rules and etiquette sections. Many web links are also provided. This information was collected as described above and will be updated at least each spring.
The Rules sheet was constructed by accepting the district office's opinion as the most accurate on the assumption that they were the ones responsible for managing the resource (even if there was no apparent enforcement authority.) State law was assumed to apply if no specific rules were provided by the local offices or other sources. That law does allow local jurisdictions to issue permits and include other rules on them (or in the case of the state parks another process imposes enforceable restrictions.)
View/Download the Rules Sheet
The user of these rules should not consider the Rules sheet to be a legal interpretation and it is possible that one of the few enforcement agents may stop the user and have a different and/or more recent interpretation. There is an email link on the back bottom for comments.
The Rules sheet is posted in Adobe's PDF file format. You'll need the free Acrobat Reader software, which may be downloaded here.
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