Hills Alive With Beargrass Pickers
First it was huckleberries and mushrooms, now beargrass has become a major target of commercial “pickers” heading into the national forests for profit.
Last year, permits to harvest beargrass brought in more money than woodcutting permits at the Idaho Panhandle’s Fernan Ranger District.
Sales of the $10-a-day beargrass picking permits netted the district $16,925 last year, up from $5,937 in 1993.
Firewood permits, which cost $5 a cord, brought in $11,075 last year.
The demand primarily is from Western Washington floral dealers, who ship the coarse green leaves of beargrass to overseas markets for use in floral arrangements. The bulbous white cluster of blossoms is not the marketable item.
Forest officials say Eastern Washington and North Idaho forests are being sought now that Cascades Mountains beargrass fields have been harvested - perhaps overharvested - for years. The beargrass plant, which grows at high altitudes, requires about three years to grow back after its core has been removed.
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