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Good Picking

Summer sun brings ripe huckleberries, pickers to national forest

As August approaches, huckleberries ripen, bringing many people to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to enjoy this local fruit.

Huckleberries are an important treaty resource of both religious and cultural importance to the Yakama Nation. Huckleberries are also sought after by visitors picking for their personal use, and commercial pickers who sell berries they pick.

Because of the different users, forest officials ask that huckleberry pickers keep personal use and commercial harvest rules in mind. The huckleberry permits and rules help protect resources and reduce sanitation problems on the forest.

There is no change to the rules for huckleberry picking for personal use. Up to 3 gallons of huckleberries per person per year may be harvested for personal use. A permit is not required for personal use.

"Huckleberry picking on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is a very popular recreational activity," said Nancy Ryke of the Mt. Adams District Ranger. "Due to the late snow melt, this huckleberry season appears to be a couple of weeks later than last year."

Anyone selling the berries they pick on the National Forest or needing more than 3 gallons is required to obtain a permit. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest will begin selling commercial huckleberry permits on Aug. 15 for $40. Permits are available at ranger district offices and Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument headquarters.

The following rules apply for both personal and commercial huckleberry picking.

* Some areas of the forest are closed to both personal and commercial huckleberry picking. Maps of areas open to berry picking can be obtained at Gifford Pinchot National Forest offices. The map is also issued with permits and shows areas closed to commercial harvest. No commercial picking or commercial camps are allowed in the closed areas.

Examples of closed areas are wilderness and the reserved "Handshake Agreement" area with the Yakama Nation, in the Sawtooth Berryfields.

Since the "Handshake Agreement" in 1932 between William Yallup, Chief of the Yakama Nation, and Gifford Pinchot Forest Supervisor K.P. Cecil, a designated area within the Sawtooth Berry Fields has been set aside for the members of the Yakama Nation to gather their traditional food. Please respect this closure which restricts both commercial and personal use huckleberry picking.

* Huckleberries can only be picked by hand. No mechanical devices such as rakes can be used because they damage the bushes.

* For the safety of all forest users, berry harvesters are asked not to park in the roadways or turnouts while picking berries. Remember that parking in some developed sites requires a Northwest Forest Pass.

* Be cautious with campfires or cigarettes while in the Forest during the huckleberry season.

For further information, contact any of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest offices.

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