Morel, chanterelle, and hen-of-the-woods mushroom hunters in Minnesota state parks may soon face something anglers and wild game hunters have accepted for well over a century—bag limits. While some mushroom enthusiasts are not happy about it, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) plans to roll out proposed rule changes for foraging in state parks for public comment in the coming year.
The MDNR is considering the new rules out of concern that the increasing popularity of mushroom hunting, which itself mushroomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, may damage natural resources. “We want to make sure there’s not overcollecting of those resources,” DNR Parks and Trails Director Ann Pierce told the StarTribune. “With consumable resources, whether it’s fish or deer or berries and mushrooms, you need to look at what you can logically harvest without hurting the resource.” According to Pierce, park staffers have seen vegetation trampled and are also concerned about preventing the spread of invasive species.
But Peter Martignacco, president of the 1,000-member, 70-year-old Minnesota Mycological Society, claims these concerns are unwarranted and that bag limits would be government overreach. He sees no evidence that fungi populations are in jeopardy, and he fears that legal harvest limits would be a first step toward banning mushroom foraging in state parks, and eventually in state forests and state wildlife management areas as well.
Instead of punishing mushroomers, Martignacco, whose organization actively promotes sustainable foraging, believes the DNR should be exploring ways to encourage interest in growing the delicacies and expanding opportunities to collect them. To make his case, he points to historic new funding that the state legislature awarded the MDNR to engage more residents in outdoor activities.
“Our footprint is pretty light on the environment compared to other land uses,” Martignacco told the StarTribune. “Minnesota foragers value this activity for many reasons. It is thrilling to be out on a scavenger hunt when the prize is something delicious that you can cook.”
After a phone conversation with him last Tuesday, Pierce has agreed to meet with Martignacco to discuss his concerns and ideas, but, according to Martignacco, the conversation “would not likely have any impact on the proposed regulations.” Instead, he’ll have an opportunity to voice his concerns again during the public comment period next year.
While there are a range of regulations for foraging on Minnesota’s public lands, it is allowed for mushrooms and berries in state parks with no current limits. The MDNR is also considering limits on berry picking inside state parks, including for wild blueberries, gooseberries, serviceberries, raspberries, and cranberries.