Forest Service issues free-use permits

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Sean Rooney of Milwaukie holds his free use mushroom permit as baby Everett reaches for it.So you want to be eating fresh, local, seasonal plants because, well, you are an Oregonian.

Where do you head?

Grocery store? Farmers Market?

Here’s another option: The Mt. Hood National Forest, especially if you like huckleberries or mushrooms, the two most popular edible items on the federally managed forest.

All you need is a free use permit.

In order to get permit, visitors must stop by the front desk at a Mt. Hood National Forest ranger station and present valid identification and provide a signature.

Huckleberry and mushroom free use permits expire Dec. 31 of the year they were issued or when the holder has gathered the maximum amount of the item allowed.

“One of the reasons we require (permits) is to know what’s going on in the forest,” said Amber Burleigh, special forest products coordinator for the Mt. Hood National Forest.

The Forest Service’s records on the permits they’ve issued help them to keep track of the popularity of forest products and to determine whether recreational gathering is sustainable.

“Obviously if all of our permit products are being depleted we won’t be having the bears coming to eat the huckleberries,” said Chris Bentley, Mt. Hood National Forest public affairs specialist after explaining that huckleberries are popular with bears preparing to hibernate for the winter.

If the forest’s huckleberries were depleted, it wouldn’t just be humans who would be disappointed.

Burleigh explained that the permits include information on gathering the products without damaging the plant or area.

“Also when people are harvesting special use plants they are doing so in a way that doesn’t harm the plant and that information is usually listed on the back of the permit,” Burleigh explained.

by: COURTESTY OF MT. HOOD NATIONAL FOREST - Huckleberry season is at its peak in August.For example, rakes are prohibited for huckleberry gathering because raking can strip the plant of its foliage and damage its limbs. This harms the plant’s ability to photosynthesize and produce new huckleberries.

“That’s why huckleberries need to be picked by hand,” Burleigh said.

Although Forest Service employees highly recommend being knowledgeable about the permit item, safety is not the purpose of the permit system.

For instance, one does not need to demonstrate knowledge of edible mushrooms to be issued a permit for mushroom gathering.

The Mt. Hood National Forest also offers free permits for transplants, cut greenery and boughs in the Christmas season.


With a free use huckleberry permit, visitors may gather three gallons of huckleberries for personal use from the Mt. Hood National Forest per year. Huckleberries thrive in sunny, open areas at a 3,500 to 4,500 feet elevational band.

The Forest Service doesn’t offer maps of huckleberry hot spots, but Burleigh hinted that identifying forest areas at the proper elevation would be a good place for huckleberry hunters to start.

“A lot of people are pretty funny. Talk to a serious huckleberry hunter and they’re going to protect their spot,” Bentley said.

Burleigh said the Forest Service likes for people to discover their own space.

However, huckleberry harvesting is banned in wilderness areas, developed campgrounds, administrative sites, research areas and within a quarter mile of Old Maid Flats. One doesn’t need a permit if they are simply nibbling berries while otherwise recreating in the forest.

Right now, it’s the tail end of huckleberry season which lasts from mid-July through September.

“I recommend August as one of the better months,” Burleigh said.


It’s mushroom season now.

Mushroom free use permit holders may take 10 gallons of mushrooms for personal use per year but may only transport one gallon per vehicle at a time.

The permit lists how to properly remove mushrooms without damaging the area. Harvesters must carry their free use permit and the Mt. Hood National Forest Harvest Map.

The map identifies areas where mushroom harvesting is prohibited. Mushroom harvesting is also not allowed in campgrounds. Numerous mushroom guide books and brochures are available at the Estacada Ranger Station.

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