Hello, my name is John Getz,
For those of you who are wondering what the purpose was, of my involvement regarding SB578, and the -01 amendment, I am writing this letter.
Getting involved is what I have always done. All too often I have had to suffer ridicule at the time by those who did not understand, but the “thank you’s”, did come, sometimes years later. So none of this is new to me, and I generally don’t really care what people think of me, especially when I feel so strongly about something.
Because there are those who could care less and have come to their own conclusions, and will likely continue to do so, I have been hesitant to say anything at all.
People, who look for the bad, make things worse. People, who look for the good, make things better. I knew the original bill, as bad as it was, could be turned into an opportunity.
To help validate my intentions, I am sharing a few pieces of my history, and then I will talk more about the bill;
I am in love with my world here in Oregon. I am passionate about mushrooms, I cannot imagine my life without being able to go out and collect them. I fell in love with the world of fungi in 1977, and have been ever since.
I have been a commercial harvester for 28 years, a wild mushroom recreational harvester for 36 years, and I have traveled and hunted all types of mushrooms throughout Oregon and Northern California since 1987.
In 1987, I began
teaching stewardship to the first wave of harvesters who started going out in
the Oregon Dunes . I’m not just a commercial picker wanting to maximize my
profit margin, nor to have the Dunes all to myself, and never have been. I have
taught more harvesters all I knew about more areas than perhaps everyone else
combined here in the Oregon Dunes. I used to pick in over a dozen areas between
I witnessed the 'before and after' effects of the wild mushroom industry as a
vast area was transformed into an intense commercial harvesting operation,
literally overnight. It was my 3rd season in central
I have absolutely
nothing against “non white, non middle-class” people (Heck, I’m not even
middle-class myself.) Some people have even interpreted comments I have made in
the past to mean that I am racially-biased against Asian commercial mushroom
pickers. On the contrary -- I have been
fascinated with the cultures from the
In 1991, I loudly voiced opposition regarding the FS consideration to lease mushroom producing areas to mushroom companies.
After the Matsutake price wars in the early 90’s, I witnessed the first significant escalation of ‘money now’ madness in the dunes as a flood of people came onto the scene.
In 1992, my great concerns for these resources and the possibility that the Forest Service (management) was likely to be scaled way back led me to act. In July 1993, I took out a group of scientists from OSU, and some Forest Service personnel from the Siuslaw National Forest to one of my favorite Matsutake mushroom areas.
On this outing a botanist explained to me that Washington DC was going to cut off funding if they could not provide a means to inventory and map Matsutake mushroom habitat. So I told her how, and that it could be done year round with 100% accuracy, and without picking a single mushroom. Allotropa Virgata is a plant that lives exclusively on Matsutake mycellium. At that Time, I did not know of one single person who knew about the significance of this plant that helped me identify six different habitats for Matsutake by 1990. I did not even mention this plant to other harvesters, or anyone.
It worked, like I knew it would, and their funding was granted. My fears of an out of control mushroom industry running wild with no FS management were at ease.
In 1994, with the help of a close friend, I produced a stewardship-themed Matsutake harvest technique video tailored for the Oregon Dunes, and for the FS to use in their permit program. It was widely viewed, and habitat disturbance was significantly reduced when the vast majority of harvesters understood stewardship.
To attempt to ensure stewardship and the
crafting of a permit/contract system with the ODNRA, my efforts have been
primarily focused close to home the last 22 years. I filed an appeal on the first lottery system
to issue permits 20 years ago, based on the fact that a lottery does not foster
stewardship. I argued that simply limiting the number of permits does not
protect the resource because one bad harvester can do more disruption than a
hundred good ones. A bidding process was devised and worked well for over a
decade to foster stewardship.
In 2009, I put together an association of harvesters to collaboratively address, with the forest service, urgent needed improvements with the ODNRA Matsutake mushroom permit program. The outcome was perceived as a great success by both sides.
I was a member of the OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) designated routes working group for the ODNRA. I represented the mushroom pickers. This working group project lasted nearly 2 years.
About the bill
When I first became aware of SB 578, I was very concerned just like everyone else. I made it very clear that I had absolutely no interest in helping the State to simply collect fees and do nothing for the resource. I was able to meet with the director of ODA, and said what we need is licensing and certification, to professionalize the commercial wild mushroom industry if they are going to do anything at all.
I felt the best option was to quickly form an association and try to amend the existing bill. I spent tremendous amounts of time and energy to try to make that happen. My sense of urgency is explained below. We did not have the luxury of time and careful planning. We wanted to exempt recreational users and private landowners. To change ‘permit’ to ‘license’, and that the license requirement only apply to commercial harvesters and buyers. We were in favor of a certification program for harvesters and buyers to help foster stewardship, sustainability, and public safety.
To expect a fully mature legislative approach to something like 'mushrooms' to pass in one bill or in one legislative session is pure fantasy, especially in the times we live in. The fact that we even had a chance to get anything done or accomplished at all is incredibly amazing.
I was/am very concerned about possible social conflicts flaring up next season, based on reports last season from harvesters here in central coastal Oregon (NOT just in the Dunes). It would be tragic if social conflicts erupted to the point of casualties out in the woods. I am being quite serious here.
I see an all too
familiar pattern unfolding reminiscent to what I have seen throughout central
and southern OR, as well as northern CA. With one significant difference: western
It always starts with a mushroom buyer, and soon to follow will be the troops to push out the locals. It has already started.
I only want peace
and harmony, I personally don't care who or where mushroom lovers come from, I
only want to find balance for all users. I know it sounds corny, but it's the
truth. I know it is complicated, but I believe it can be done. And based on
what I have witnessed lately, it NEEDS to be done
Keep in mind that it is the local harvesters with years of intimate understanding of the areas that they harvest in, that can effectively steward this resource with a minimum degree of impact. For example, knowing where to step and where not to step. The soils in western Oregon are much softer than the soils on the east slope of the Cascades, or the Tan Oak habitats in the southern regions.
Mushroom companies tend to believe that more harvesters will bring more mushrooms, when in fact the opposite is true. Oh, sure, if those more harvesters are loyal to one company, it will initially bring that company a greater share of the crop, but, over all and over time, more harvesters with little understanding of fruiting patterns and locations will result in more soil compaction, erosion, human waste, and trampled mushrooms.
When the resource suffers, everybody loses.
We used to think that we would never deplete our old growth forests, or the bounty of the seas. Guess what, we were wrong!
P.S. For all I know, in a legislative session with so many bills to consider, this bill may go nowhere. If so,I sincerely hope that my fears explained above will not come true. I wish we had more time than we actually did to have crafted the amendment to the bill and then to also have been able to communicate to more people what its intentions were, including its role in a strategy to manifest those intentions. Timing is everything. Passions are strong. Life is what you make it, make it good.