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Protect mushroom patches from loggers, pickers say
    #3057962 - 08/27/04 02:07 PM (13 years, 5 months ago)


Protect mushroom patches from loggers, pickers say

By JEFF Nagel
REGULATING the pine mushroom industry may have some value, but many pickers say they?d prefer the government simply get serious about protecting the best patches from logging.
The idea that Victoria should start to control the unregulated industry ? and perhaps tax the undeclared income stream ? has been raised in a new report from the Forest Practices Board.
?I agree with regulations ? the only thing is we needed them 20 years ago,? says Ron Baldwin, a longtime picker in the Nass Valley.
?The forest companies have run around and done their best to butcher all the patches before any kind of control comes in,? he said. ?The pine mushroom could very well become an extinct species the way we?re doing it now.?
That was a central argument of the new report, which said regulation could help shield the mushrooms from logging, overpicking and help head off conflict between users, many of whom consider lucrative mushroom patches on Crown land to be their personal property.
Baldwin agrees that?s a problem.
?We have strong young men meeting old people in the bush and doing their best to scare them out of there with pure fear,? he said.
One potential model for regulation is the permitting system introduced in 2000 by the Nisga?a Lisims Government on Nass Valley lands governed under the Nisga?a treaty.
Baldwin says the experience there, despite some opposition and ugly racism from non-native pickers, has been a positive one.
The Nisga?a government has ensured no more logging happens in prime mushroom areas. And Baldwin says its system has helped stem reckless picking, litter and disputes.
?There?s somebody with authority walking around keeping an eye on things,? he said. ?Maybe not enough, but every little bit helps.?
Baldwin has less confidence in the province?s ability to regulate the industry elsewhere.
?The Nisga?a are more forest-oriented people,? said Baldwin, who is non-native. ?They actually care for the land they live in. The government is run by a bunch of people who have degrees and don?t know how to light a campfire.?
Others, however, say they won?t buy the Nisga?a mushroom picking permits on principle
?I won?t buy one,? said Jaron Janas, a Terrace picker and buyer who runs Boomers Mushroom Depot. ?I think it should be something anybody can enjoy anywhere.?
He predicts three-quarters of pickers will likewise ignore any permitting system the province ever attempts to introduce.
?What other resource do we have where we can go out in the bush and make money?? he asked.
Janas said that tax-free income is important to people in this area, especially in these economically depressed times.
?There are a lot of people who depend on the mushrooms,? he said. ?They?ll be back on welfare. Regulating it will hurt a lot of people.?
But he agrees conflicts are on the rise and says the logging of productive patches, such as those near Ritchie Flats east towards Kitwanga, amounts to senseless destruction.
Janas estimates 250 people pick there and make $2,000 to $10,000 each per season.
?I?d be supportive of regulating in a way that we can protect certain areas,? he added. ?But it?s a hard industry to regulate.?
Terrace picker Ed Ansems says protecting patches from logging is the key, and says the province can do that any time it wants without regulating picking.
?I guess they want to regulate it,? he said. ?I don?t see a lot of good coming out of it.?
?What are they going to have ? one guy for the province looking over your shoulder up here??
Just as crucial, he said, should be efforts to educate people to pick responsibly and not rip up the moss where the fungus grows.
As for the lost tax revenue, Ansems says most pickers quickly spend their earnings, putting it back in the regular economy where governments get their share of taxes.
?Good God, these people need the money,? he said.
But like faraway pickers attracted by tales of record years, governments are motivated by greed.
The Nisga?a government, he noted, tried to charge exorbitant fees before conceding that didn?t work and reduced permit prices.
?Everybody thinks there?s more money in it than there is,? Ansems said.

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