Oregon truffle hunting will require a permit
Oregon's Board of Forestry moved forward Thursday to regulate truffle hunting on state and private lands.
That means truffles will became Oregon's first regulated forest product in nearly 20 years.
Truffles aren't mushrooms, though they are fungi. Mushrooms grow above-ground, truffles underground.
This small distinction kept truffle hunting from being regulated on state and private forestlands the way mushrooms are.
In recent years, Oregon's gourmet chefs have clamored for black and white truffles. And that, in turn, had forestland owners clamoring for the 2013 Legislature to take action.
Jim James of the Oregon Small Woodlands Association said truffles are harvested by digging in the roots of Douglas firs. The process, he says, can go two ways.
"You can do it and not hurt the tree. You can also be careless," he said.
Sheriff's Deputy Gary Davey works in coastal Lincoln County, where he received complaints about truffle hunting on private tree farms. He testified before a legislative committee this summer about the need for permits, or fines, for truffle hunters. He said this will help rein in the wild west of truffle hunting.
"They're pretty territorial when it comes to their truffle grounds. Two subjects have been armed with side arms. I found that disturbing," Davey said.
The Legislature triggered the current rule-making process by passing House Bill 2615. Davey argued that the new regulation will create a safer environment and prevent damage to the forest.
Truffle hunters, like those seeking mushrooms or firewood, will be required to contact landowners or the Oregon Department of Forestry for permission.
The Board of Forestry has until July to finalize the details of its new forest regulations. Public comments are accepted through April 1.