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Yes, you can pick huckleberries on Forest Service land, but you can’t sell them

Living the Wild Life

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On Monday my friend, Wylie, and I decided it was time to check out the huckleberry situation in the area between Moody and the Kelly Ski Hill. As we pulled into an area where we had been successful in past years we noticed a sign stapled to a board, so we checked it out.

The “WARNING TO HUCKLEBERRY PICKERS” looked official enough to cause some serious discussion between the two of us about government intervention in our intended berry-picking lives. Basically it said that each picker would be limited to one gallon per day and five gallons per year. We knew those rules would cause some of our dearest church-going friends a lot of heart-burn but not from eating too many berries.

We tried to guess what might be the Forest Service’s intentions. Our first thought was the one gallon per day per picker and the second one about a five gallon season limit would stop those the berry-braggers from bragging each Sunday about how many they had picked during the week.

And the information about the $5,000 and $10,000 fines had visions of $$$$$$ running through our minds as we were going snitch on the righteous law-breakers for big bucks. But most of all I wanted to know the why for the new rules.

As soon as I got home I called the Caribou-Targhee Forest Service office in Idaho Falls about the notice; they said they didn’t know anything about it and to call the Palisades office. Palisades denied knowing anything and sent me back to the Idaho Falls office.

Finally I was told that they had not put out any notices about picking huckleberries but they would put out a press release about their rules and regulations to clarify everything. The notice was a fake directive from who knows who or why!

You can read the full release here. Basically, personal use is defined as picking four gallons per family or individual a year. There are no commercial permits available, and commercial picking is actually prohibited on forest service land.

I also contacted the Idaho Department of Lands that owns many acres in the same area from Moody to the Kelly Ski Hill and they do not have any restrictions on the amount of berries picked for free use.

“If you are picking on state land to sell them, then you will have to purchase a permit for $250 to sell those berries,” said Heath Hancock, a Resource Supervisor for the Idaho Department of Lands stationed in Idaho Falls. “But with all the timber harvesting that we have done recently many of the sweet spots are no longer productive.”

On Monday, Wylie and I found most of the huckleberries were still not ripe, but Thursday I ran out to some of my favorite patches and found about half of them had ripened. I was able to pick about half of my daily limit, according to the notice although the nearby cows had most certainly eaten more, and were still busy eating.

So now that you know, go find your favorite patch and start picking! Just watch where you step because of the cows! Also look out for the bears and chipmunks who may love these berries more than we humanoids do.

Wylie and I will wait for more berries to ripen and thankfully won’t have to worry about federal agents hiding behind each tree counting how many we are picking.