Morel mushrooms grow beside a log, south of Francois Lake. (Blair McBride photo)

First Nations, government to monitor mushroom picking

The provincial government is partnering with some First Nations in the region to help monitor mushroom picking and ensure it is done responsibly.

The area around Burns Lake, especially the Southside is a popular destination for mushroom pickers and buyers. Several buyer camps have been set up along logging roads south and southwest of Francois Lake.

READ MORE: Mushroom haul a cash cow for pickers, buyers

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) announced a partnership with three First Nations east of Burns Lake in the monitoring plan, according to a press release on June 27.

The Nadleh Whut’en, Stellat’en and Nakazdli Whut’en First Nations first approached the government for the partnership, as an FLNRORD spokesperson told Lakes District News. The government is open to working with any First Nation on such alliances.

The joint effort follows ongoing recovery efforts from the 2018 Shovel Lake and Island Lake wildfires. Mushrooms, especially morels tend to grow abundantly in formerly burned areas.

“The Nadleh Whut’en and Stellat’en communities have developed a management plan for the areas near their communities. As ancestral caretakers of the land, they encourage responsible, safe and low-impact mushroom harvesting. Pickers and buyers are able to receive educational materials, safety tips and directions. Mushroom harvesting in the affected area is being monitored by First Nations Land Guardians,” the release said.

“As stewards of the land, we have a sacred duty to ensure that all who use the natural bounty of our forests and waters do so in a responsible, sustainable and respectful manner,” said Larry Nooski, Chief of Nadleh Whut’en. “We are pleased to have our Guardians work alongside the Province’s conservation officers and natural resource officers in protecting sensitive cultural and ecological areas.”

The recovery process involves the closure of some areas to mushroom picking. They include a swath at the west end of Fraser Lake, and a patch between Oona Lake and Ormond Lake, about 9 kilometres north of Fraser Lake. They will be closed from May 17 to Aug. 31.

Despite the large numbers of mushroom pickers around Burns Lake, no specific closures have been announced.

The restrictions are in addition to the regular prohibitions on picking in parks, ecological reserves and recreation areas, and on Department of National Defense lands.

Permission is needed to pick on First Nations reserves, tree farm licenses, leased Crown land and private lands.

No permission is needed to pick on provincial forest lands.

Some First Nations in the province have taken a stricter approach towards picking than the three First Nations near Fraser Lake.

The ?Esdilagh First Nation between Quesnel and Williams Lake has banned picking in certain areas and the Tsilhqot’in and Secwépemc started permit systems to regulate the activity.

READ MORE: First Nation band bans mushroom harvest in West Fraser Complex fire area

READ MORE: Mushroom picking in Tsilhqot’in territory to require a permit

READ MORE: Harvesting Morel Mushrooms in the Secwépemc Territory

That was done out of concern for ecologically and culturally sensitive areas, and because some pickers have left behind a mess from their camps.


Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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