Feds take the fun out of fungi hunting at Lands End

For decades, members of the Mycological Society of San Francisco have scoured Lands End each rainy season for edibles and collectibles. But in July, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area halted the activity under orders from Washington, where National Park Service authorities made the decision to restrict all plant and wildlife collection on federal parklands.

GGNRA spokeswoman Chris Powell says the plan is to conduct a habitat assessment study as soon as possible at Lands End.

“As soon as possible,” however, very well could mean never. “The truth is, we don't have any money identified for this study,” Powell says. “It's fair to say that for at least a year or two, or maybe much longer, it's going to remain illegal” to collect mushrooms at Lands End. Powell concedes there was no evidence to suggest that mushrooming was damaging the region's ecosystem; it was just a hunch. In fact, park managers aren't even certain what kinds of mushrooms live at Lands End, whether other species rely on them for food, or how many hobbyists pursue them.

J.R. Blair, president of the Mycological Society, says that the National Park Service “generally frowns upon mushroom collecting on their property,” adding that past battles with the feds over picking mushrooms on Bay Area public lands have been lost. But Eric Multhaup, chairman of the society's public land regulation committee, has higher hopes this time around. Multhaup and his cohorts recently offered to provide data collection services (that's fancy talk for mushroom hunting) to park service biologists who, if they had the wherewithal, might go count mushrooms themselves.

“That way we could get the educational value out of the land while offering GGNRA a free service that would hopefully help to resolve this whole issue,” he says.

Multhaup intends to submit a research proposal to the feds before the next rainy season begins. Meanwhile, the fine for swiping mushrooms on park service land stands at a considerable $50 per violation – but mushroom buffs must be wondering: If the National Park Service can't pay anyone to count mushrooms, can it be paying anyone to guard them?

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