2022.01.06 | Mushroom Harvesting is Illegal on the Ranch

It is mushroom season in Cambria and people are once again illegally removing them from the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. The recent rains have brought out mushrooms by the score, a most welcome sight after the last couple of very dry winters. But the downside is the illegal and reckless collecting of the fruiting bodies of these fungi.

The management plan for Fiscalini Ranch Preserve – which is posted on the Cambria Community Services District’s website – includes a list of prohibited activities, including “planting, cultivating, or harvesting of plants”, including wildflowers and fungi. Signs are also posted at each trail head stating that collecting on the Ranch is prohibited. While the US Forest Service can issue permits to collect on public forest land, there are no such permits for the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

Some people defend the harvesting of wild plants and animals because these practices were carried out by Native peoples. It is true that the Northern Chumash and Salinan lived off the resources of Central California. It is also true that when Europeans arrived in California, the entire state’s population was approximately 300,000 people, just over the current population of San Luis Obispo County alone. The scale of foraging and hunting was far different that is possible today, and the practices were far different as well. Native people cultivated the resources upon which they depended; their practices sustained those plants and animals for thousands of years.

Mushrooms that are not harvested by people are not “going to waste”. They are an integral part of an ecological network. Mushrooms are food for the insects and mammals that live on the Ranch. Their underground network of mycelia connects plants and helps sustain the forest. These fruiting bodies also give rise to the next generation of mushrooms.

On top of that, many people enjoy seeing and photographing these beautiful organisms. Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve offers walks to learn about forest mushrooms and forest ecology. Expert docent Brian Morgan will lead a free forest walk on January 8 from 10 to noon on what you can see in the winter. Register through the Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve’s website.

Images by Eileen Rogers

Article first published in https://cambriaca.org/