U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced a bill last week to permanently reauthorize the U.S. Forest Service’s (USFS) Special Forest Products pilot program that allows the harvest of forest products including mushrooms, roots, seeds, Christmas trees and firewood, among other items, from lands in the National Forest System.
“We have a rich abundance of natural resources in our public forests that benefit rural communities, tribal residents and visitors to our region. Folks should be able to responsibly harvest some of these products from their forests for their enjoyment and benefit,” Herrera Beutler said. “I’m pleased to introduce legislation today to permanently extend this program that allows for the sustainable harvesting of special forest products, which in turn, helps with responsible stewardship of our federal forests.”
Commercial harvesters must obtain a permit and pay a fee to the USFS. Those harvesting products for personal-use are exempt from permit requirements. Gathering of products by federally-recognized tribes for traditional or medicinal use is permitted under the personal-use exemption. Threatened, endangered or rare products are protected from harvest.
“As a community-based partnership of diverse stakeholders who work together to advance projects that enhance forest health, economic vitality, recreation, and public safety on the southern Gifford Pinchot National Forest and in surrounding communities, we value the benefits of the Special Forest Products program for Forest Service operations, local communities, and tribes. We strongly support permanent authorization for the vital Special Forest Products program included in this bill,” said South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative Coordinator Lisa Naas Cook.
Approximately $860,000 in product value is harvested each year on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.