News

Big lines for salal day permits

By Joe Smillie, Forum Editor

 

U.S. Forest Service officials had to turn away people seeking permits to harvest salal in Olympic National Forest at the agency’s Forks office Oct. 29.

 

More than 40 people showed up to get one of the office’s 25 permits.

 

“There just weren’t enough for everybody,” Ty Bingman at the Forks office said. “We directed them to the Quinault office.”

 

Wednesday was one of four days the U.S. Forest Service issues the $150 harvest permits, with an earlier session in September and two more upcoming Jan. 8 and March 5.

 

Demand for permits at the forest’s other offices was not as hot.

 

Pete Erben, recreation planner and special-use administrator at the Lake Quinault office, said it had sold just five of its 25 salal permits, though he was expecting some of those who could not get permits in Forks would have showed up later in the afternoon.

 

Salal, or gaultheria shallon, is an understory shrub commonly used in the floral industry. It grows in dense thickets throughout Western Washington and Oregon.

 

Those with permits are allowed to pick up to 200 hands per day, a measurement that equates to about three-fourths of a pound of long salal and about a pound and a quarter for standard salal, Erben said.

 

The salal industry attracts a lot of migrant workers who pick salal to sell to commercial florists, he said.

 

“It’s an important permit for some people. It’s a means of survival,” Erben said. “They work awful hard out there.”

 

Permits from the Forks office are valid for the west side of Clallam County.

 

Permits from Lake Quinault allow picking within Grays Harbor County and the west side of Jefferson County.

 

Permits from Quilcene are valid for harvest areas located on the east side of Clallam and Jefferson counties and within Mason County.

 

Maps of approved harvest areas are distributed with the sale of each permit.

 

The Quilcene office issued just 12 of its allotment of 50 permits.

 

Peggy Dressler, visitor information specialist at the Quilcene office, said confusion over this round of permits likely held down the number of applicants there.

 

“We typically have a line here, too. That’s why I was surprised when I drove in and there wasn’t anybody,” Dressler said.

 

Typically, the Forest Service issues salal permits the first Wednesday in November after September permits expire, Dressler said.

 

This year, though, the date was moved up to Oct. 30, though the expiration date on September permits was still Nov. 5.

 

“I’m sure people were just looking at their permits and saw they expired Nov. 5 and assumed the next issue day would be Nov. 6,” Dressler said.

 

Because of that confusion, she said, the Forest Service plan to issue permits again Nov. 6 at the Quilcene office, 295142 S. U.S. Highway 101.



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