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Out & about: Picking huckleberries for sale illegal on Panhandle Forests

The pains of labor are stained on the hands of a huckleberry picker during an outing high in the mountains of North Idaho. Pickers are reporting a very good year in the outback for the huckleberries as supplies are good and large berries are plentiful. (File photo by Brian Plonka/SR)
The pains of labor are stained on the hands of a huckleberry picker during an outing high in the mountains of North Idaho. Pickers are reporting a very good year in the outback for the huckleberries as supplies are good and large berries are plentiful. (File photo by Brian Plonka/SR)

OUTLAW – Picking huckleberries with the intent to sell them is considered commercial gathering, which is illegal on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, officials say.

“In order to provide plentiful opportunities for recreational huckleberry, the forest does not issue commercial permits,” said Shoshana Cooper, Idaho Panhandle National Forests spokeswoman in Coeur d’Alene.

The agency requires commercial permits for harvesting and selling berries and mushrooms and the Panhandle Forests aren’t set up to do that, she said.

Minimum fines for commercial picking start at $250, and can increase based on the severity of the offense.

“Mostly we try to educate if we catch people obviously commercially picking,” she said. “But in some cases, we’ll confiscate berries and write tickets.”

Recreational huckleberry pickers are encouraged to pick only what they can consume so that others may enjoy the fun of picking and the delicious fruit, she said.

Methods for huckleberry gathering vary widely, but pickers are strongly encouraged by forest experts to hand-pick their berries.

“This ensures that the bushes are not damaged and only ripe berries are harvested,” Cooper said, noting that the 2000 Idaho Legislature declared huckleberries as the state fruit. “We want our huckleberry bushes to remain healthy and productive for many years to come.

“Any methods that damage or destroy the bushes are illegal and may result in a fine for damaging natural resources.”

The berries also provide an important food source for the region’s bears.

Huckleberry pickers should consider carrying bear spray and be bear aware when picking, she said.

Forest Service trail budgets ridiculously low

PUBLIC LANDS – Trail maintenance budgets for work on national forests continue to shrink.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview by The Spokesman-Review with Mike Ball, the Forest Service river ranger for the Idaho side of the Hells Canyon National Recreation area and wilderness:

“I started here eight years ago and the money for trail maintenance has been cut about 50 percent in that time,” he said.

The Forest Service each year maintains only about a third of the 207 trail miles on the Idaho side, he said.

“Kathy Conover, our trails maintenance coordinator out of Riggins, has been on staff for years. But our budget is so poor I can’t even hire a seasonal worker to partner with her out on the wilderness trails where chainsaws aren’t allowed.

“It’s pretty hard to work a two-man cross-cut saw with only one person.”


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