Thursday, 17 September 2015

Fungi Forage Ban on New Forest SSSI and Code of Conduct

NFA Presentment to September 2015 Verderers Court -- The NFA reveal the source of the 1.5kg limit, and the flawed logic that allowed the FC to incorrectly apply this as a daily allowance on the protected habitat of the SSSI. This followed up the July 2015 Presentment calling for an Epping Forest style ban on culinary fungi foraging on the New Forest SSSI. [Annotations have been added below as here in square brackets]
500g punnet of mushrooms,
1/3rd of the daily amount suggested in erroneous advice.

Fungi Forage –clarification and update

The NFA are seeking a very specific Epping Forest style ban on fungi foraging on the Crown Lands of the New Forest, the Site of Special Scientific Interest which is in the stewardship of the Forestry Commission.  Epping Forest Keepers are empowered to seize harvests from fungi foragers and in 2013 brought twenty successful prosecutions.  The NFA believe a similar regime would make it easier to deter commercial foragers who would no longer have recourse to pretend they are picking for personal use.

Wild Mushroom Picker's Code of Conduct

We are also concerned about out-dated and erroneous advice which the Forestry Commission continues to distribute about personal foraging on the New Forest.  Their leaflets and website suggest that everyone may collect up to 1.5 kg of fungi per person / per day.  This has absolutely no basis in law.  It is derived from a misreading of The Wild Mushroom Picker's Code of Conduct Published 3rd September 1998 by English Nature developed in conjunction with Forestry Commission, the National Trust, the Woodland Trust, the Association of British Fungus Groups and the British Mycological Society.

In the section on Collecting for the pot:

Only collect from plentiful populations and take no more than you want for your personal consumption. In line with codes in most other European countries. we recommend that you pick no more than 1.5 kg per visit or no more than half of the fruit bodies of any single species present. whichever is the lower amount.

On some SSSIs. most nature reserves and other protected areas it is unlikely that culinary collecting is allowed. Always consult the site owner or manager before collecting.

[This is the source of the 1.5kg “limit”, note a lower amount may be taken, but requires an almost super human ability to scan the unspecified area and instantly calculate half, also leading to the you take half the next person takes half of what’s left and so on until little remains.  However the subsequent advice suggests that culinary collecting is not allowed on SSSI or Nature Reserves, this advice is ignored in the Forestry Commission's version.]

In the section on Advice for Landowners & Managers:

If the land is a National Nature Reserve. other nature reserve or protected area. or an [sic] SSSI. it will probably be appropriate to limit picking to scientific collecting.

On SSSIs. picking fungi may require consent in writing from the statutory nature conservation body. [Natural England]

Keep taking half,
quickly approach zero
Ignoring the tentative language and the Zeno’s paradox baiting “take half” suggestion.  The 1.5kg limit is "per visit" which in context seems to cover a foray, but has been misapplied to mean "per person per day".  This ignores the guidelines for SSSI which deems personal culinary use inappropriate and requiring consent from Natural England.  The 1.5kg "allowance" applicable to unprotected habitats is irrelevant.

[The code provides no lower alternative amount for culinary collecting on protected areas, because the default is none.  This provides a loophole for those who selectively read the code.]

Natural England have admitted the code “could [be] expressed more clearly and emphatically to avoid any misinterpretation.”  Both of the Fungi specialist organizations originally consulted for the code have withdrawn support.  The ABFG (now the Fungus Conservation Trust) characterise it as “ill conceived and unhelpful”.  The BMS have dropped it from their website, and now state that “a complete ban on [culinary] collection (except for scientific and educational purposes, which would require permission) should exist in the New Forest.”  All of the original consultees acknowledge that the rise in popularity of personal foraging and the uncontrolled growth of commercial picking require a clearer, stricter code.  This is in the process of being developed, in the meantime, the Forestry Commission need to stop promoting their erroneous interpretation.


The Deputy Surveyor has said it’s unrealistic to enforce a total ban.  Traffic enforcement doesn’t catch every motorist who speeds, but that doesn’t stop us having speed limits.  The NFA accept the limitations on enforcement, but suggest a blanket ban will assist enforcement by removing the need to prove commercial intent and weigh amounts against the discredited allowance.  Whether the FC would target everyone is up to them.  In practical terms this may only affect foragers who are overdoing it to the extent that they come to the notice of the Keepers regardless of commercial or personal use.  Having a ban in place will allow enforcement to evolve.

[To be fair Epping Forest have 9 Keepers who cover less than a tenth of the area.]

The NFA ask for the Verderer’s support in continuing to call for the blanket ban on culinary fungi forage on the Crown Lands.  We also ask for your support for our request that the Forestry Commission remove inappropriate advice including the erroneous daily allowance from all literature and websites pertaining to fungi collection from the New Forest SSSI.

We need to send the message that the Crown Lands of the New Forest are a protected habitat and landscape.  Foragers who claim to be environmentalists should respect that the Forest is different.  The rules here should favour this habitat, not commercial greed or personal entitlement.

Brian Tarnoff, New Forest Association (Chair, Habitat and Landscape Committee)