A press release, claiming to be from the Illinois Natural Resources Department, appeared online in the early part of 2005. The release announced that anyone wanting to pick mushrooms would need to get a license. To get such a mushroom picking license, you could go to the same places where you got a hunting or fishing license. This upset a of mushroom hobbyists. The Natural Resources department received a great many enraged phone calls and had to clear up the confusion with a real press release stating they had never made a press release about a mushroom picking license. You could go right on picking mushrooms without the state interfering.
Like many such hoaxes, it could be based on a kernel of truth. Not everybody who picks mushrooms is a recreational picker. Some are actually commercial pickers who work solo or sell to commercial mushroom concerns. Some international companies hire hundreds of workers to go out and pick mushrooms, and they may decimate the forest’s mushroom population. Mushrooms are free for the taking. For some, this is like free money.
Commercial picking of this kind has been going on in Europe for hundreds of years but it is a fairly recent thing in the United States. Mushrooms picked by commercial pickers are shipped to processing plants to be canned or dried for sale to the public.
There is a price to commercial picking, such as the potential for habitat destruction. Some states, therefore, have actually taken the step of licensing commercial mushroom pickers. In some states, there are even licensing requirements for private pickers. Those who break the licensing rules are fined. Permits are sometimes needed in National forests for commercial picking, although still free for what is considered “incidental picking.” The regulations are in line with the laws of the state the park is located in. Washington, for example, requires a commercial mushroom picking license, and there, incidental versus commercial picking, besides the intention to sell or barter the mushrooms, is less than one gallon for incidental harvesting, and more than one gallon for commercial. Giving away mushrooms, by the way, does not fall under incidental harvesting. There may be specific limits for different types of mushrooms, and the amount paid for the license, depending on the area.
You may have heard about this hoax, but could care less since you would never gather wild mushrooms, under fear of death. The fact is, mushroom fear may be a little over-inflated.