Commercial picking on the New Forest is an unacceptable theft from the amenity of the autumn display, and damaging to the habitat. Commercial pickers harvest indiscriminately, taking every bit of fungi they find, and trampling everything in their way, leaving none for others or for nature. It has taken foraging to an unsustainable level.
The NFA demand an Epping Forest style ban on the Crown Lands of the New Forest, a habitat protected by law, with special designations including SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981′ Section 13 any unauthorised removal of Fungi from SSSI is an offence and any removal of rare species is an offence. All commercial foraging of mushrooms / fungi, from the wild on any land, may be viewed as theft under The Theft Act 1968 Section 4 (3). which allows the activity for personal not any commercial use.
The Epping Forest byelaws do not specifically mention fungi, yet their policy and enforcement target its removal derived from an all inclusive prohibition. Their keepers are empowered to challenge pickers, seize and destroy harvests, and in some instances prosecutions are brought. A total ban would be much easier for the Forestry Commission keepers to enforce. They wouldn’t have to prove commercial intent, or weigh amounts to an arbitrary allowance, they could challenge anyone engaged in the activity. Whether, in practice, the FC targets everyone, is up to them. The message it sends is that the commercial pickers will not have recourse to pretend they’re just harmless gatherers for personal use.
We have asked the Forestry Commission for a policy of enforcement of a ban based on the model of Epping Forest. We have asked the National Park Authority and the Verderers of the New Forest to work with Natural England and rural Policing initiatives to help the FC devise ways to implement the ban suited to the management of the New Forest.
Foraging for fungi is no more acceptable on a SSSI and a National Park than carting away bushels of bluebells, or collecting butterflies or bird’s eggs. With an increasing population, and trends in cooking shows encouraging foraging, it is unclear how sustainable this activity would be in the future. It’s up to us to be responsible now and say that it’s inappropriate on the New Forest. We’re not entitled to simply take from nature in perpetuity and not be mindful of the consequences.
The display of fungi in the New Forest is as essential a part of the experience of Autumn in this protected habitat as the pannage pigs, and should remain for all to see and enjoy.
All images courtesy of Brian Tarnoff.