Bridger-Teton National Forest ended its first-ever commercial mushroom hunting season in August, lasting just over four months. The local supervisor's office aimed to prepare itself for an influx of mushroom harvesters following the 2018 Roosevelt wildfire.
Ashley Egan, the project lead and wildlife program lead technician with Bridger-Teton Supervisor's Office, said mushroom growth explodes following wildfires. As a result, many people come into the area looking for chanterelles and morels.
The desire to create a commercial hunting permit stemmed from the Cliff Creek fire in 2016. Egan said harvesters flooded the area.
"That was a big eye-opener," Egan said. "That was the first time Bridger-Teton saw a huge influx of commercial mushroom users. How can we facilitate this activity? We need more bathrooms out there. We need to disperse people on campgrounds better. We need more trash cans."
Since then, the office put together a plan to structure how commercial harvesting would occur in the forest. It included signage, porta-potties, and maps. It also designated take limits, cost and sale of the product. After the late 2018 Roosevelt fire, Egan said her office decided to try its first commercial hunting season with permits.
The goal was to provide structure for businesses like restaurants or grocery stores who planned to harvest mushrooms extensively. One permit costs $300 and allows for 14-days of commercial gathering - meaning over three gallons at a time.
"We didn't sell as many permits as we thought we would. But it was a great trial, and I think we were very successful," she said.
The office only sold four commercial permits over four months.
"We thought that we would at least have maybe 50 permits sold just given the size of the Roosevelt fire and the larger vicinity. But then again, it wasn't a huge, enormous mushroom crop year," Egan said.
She said the season the low permit number could come from overlap with personal harvesters who can take up to three gallons at a time. Down the line, Egan said she expects to tweak the process, say with costs and how much entities can take at a time. Bridger-Teton extended the harvesting season in June.
The next season isn't set. Once there's another wildfire, the district ranger would decide if it wanted to move forward with another harvesting season.