Gathering morel mushrooms in Montana: What you need to know

Posted at 9:27 AM, May 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-04 11:27:27-04

HELENA – With new burn areas across Montana, the U.S. Forest Service is anticipating a bumper crop of morel mushrooms.

Mushroom gatherers will need to get their Incidental Use Permit or Personal Use Charge Permit from the USFS.

The Incidental Use Permit is free and allows for the harvest of up to one gallon a day and a total five gallons per season.

The Personal Use Charge Permit allows for the harvest of up to 300 gallons for the season with a daily limit of five gallons.

The cost is $1 per gallon with a minimum purchase of 20 gallons.

There is no permit required for mushroom harvesters gathering small amounts, up to five gallons total per season.      

Morel mushrooms often fruit prolifically in the years immediately after an area has been burned by wildfire.

The northern region saw approximately 700,000 acres of burn in 2017 and the mushroom crop is likely to be excellent.

Several thousand people are expected to come to harvest morels, including both commercial and personal-use mushroom pickers.

Mushrooms are considered a "forest product" and various levels of permits, both free and for sale, may be required to collect them.

The USFS is also asking people to take extra care while in these burned out areas.

Kathy Bushnell of the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest says that the dead or damaged trees can pose a significant threat and are much more likely to fall.

“Definitely be aware of your surroundings and what the area is like (with) standing dead trees. Also, pick the day you go out,” said Bushnell. “If it’s really windy we would encourage people to find a different day to go out.”

People are encouraged to get a guidebook to ensure that the mushrooms they’re harvesting are edible.

The Bitterroot National Forest advises that forest users should use caution when crossing creeks and streams and be aware that the crossings may become impassable due to high water from snowmelt or flood events. Also, use caution while driving on USFS roads. 

Melting snow can also create soft roadbeds which when driven on can cause severe damage to forest roads.  Please avoid creating ruts and driving on soft roadbeds until they have had time to drain and harden.

Click here for more information about the 2018 Morel Mushroom Harvest.