Picking Wild Edibles like Ramps and Other Legal Activities in the Monongahela National Forest
If you happen to be someone that loves wild plants like ramps, but don’t have a private spot to harvest them, the National Forests may be your answer. We spoke with members of both National Forests in our listening area. In part one of our two-part story, Julie Fosbender, a Natural Resource Specialist, tells us more about what can and can’t be done on the nearly one million acres of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.
Ms. Fosbender says, “Like all National Forests, we are managed for the multiple uses of things like timber harvesting, outdoor recreation, minerals, wilderness, grazing of livestock, and our job is to manage all of those competing uses, for the American public, because the Forest Service doesn’t own these lands, these lands are owned by all American citizens, and everybody has a stake in what happens on their public lands.”
So when it comes to wild edibles like ramps, is it legal to harvest them in the Monongahela? Ms. Fosbender answers, “Yes, it is, for personal use! That’s one of the great recreational activities, I think, is to go out in to the National Forest and collect ramps or blueberries or mushrooms and then use them for yourself and your family. At this point in time, for edible forest products, like, you know, ramps and blueberries, the Monongahela does not have a permit system and no resale or commercial use of those products can happen. So, I know that people get upset that they can’t go out on to the Monongahela and collect ramps for large events like ramp feeds or charitable events for fire departments, et cetera, but our concern is also to manage the ecosystem and people’s use of that ecosystem and so personal use is o.k. in small quantities, but commercial use is not. ‘Small quantities’ is defined as what you or your immediate family would use, so for example, I know for some folks, a personal use of ramps is dinner that night with taters and ham, but personal use could also be canning those ramps for your use, not to sell or, or give away or anything like that, but for your consumption, so it kind of varies, but, again, the biggest thing is that you cannot sell them. You cannot donate them for ramp feeds or that sort of thing. It’s for your use only, and the ticket when you’re harvesting ramps or any forest product is think about others, think about the environment and don’t take them all. Try and take a portion of what you may find, because if someone were to harvest all of the ramps in an area, A., there’s nothing left for anybody else, but B., you also can harm the forest by creating hillsides or areas that don’t have any kind of plants, and then the water can cause erosion and, also, you can impact next year’s harvest because there’s no seed sources, so we ask that everybody act responsibly when they’re harvesting forest products for their personal use.”
Other products can be gathered with a permit on the Monongahela National Forest, including firewood permits for $20 for up to four cords of dead and downed firewood, and $5 to pick and cut down a Christmas tree. No permit is needed for campfire wood for personal use, but folks are cautioned to never transport firewood from different states because of non-native insect species. The requirement of a permit, or a lack of one, to collect forest products applies to all citizens, regardless of the state they are from. For full details, check with your local forest service office or go online to learn more about regulations specific to your area. In part two, we will focus on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
Monongahela National Forest website: www.fs.usda.gov/mnf