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Resolving Oregon's Truffle Kerfuffle

A haul of truffles, photographed with a pair of rulers to give a sense of scale. New rules will require truffle hunters to get permission before foraging for these fungi on private and state forests in Oregon.
A haul of truffles, photographed with a pair of rulers to give a sense of scale. New rules will require truffle hunters to get permission before foraging for these fungi on private and state forests in Oregon.

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 twenty 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 says truffles are harvested by digging in the roots of Doug 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.

“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 argues 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.

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Devan Schwartz