Mushroom picking in the New Forest should be banned to protect landscape, say campaigners

NFA said 'gangs' descend on the area in autumn to 'blanket pick' mushrooms

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The Independent Online

Mushroom picking in the New Forest should be banned entirely to prevent the landscape being stripped bare by commercial gangs, wildlife campaigners have argued.

The New Forest Association (NFA) said “gangs” descend on the area every autumn to “blanket pick” mushrooms that they sell to upmarket restaurants, destroying rare fungi in the process.

The Forestry Commission has promised to “disrupt” the activity but the NFA believes a ban is the only solution. It said fungi should get the same protection as plants in the national park, which straddles Hampshire and Wiltshire.

Graham Baker, deputy chairman of the NFA, said the New Forest was one of the “primary locations for fungi in the world”.

The New Forest is designated as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

“In the New Forest, picking gangs come primarily from Southampton and Bournemouth and are generally knowledgeable,” he told the BBC. “Some may blanket pick, that is, pick every fungi in an area and rely on experts to remove poisonous and unpleasant fungus.

“Certainly, in 2014, large quantities of protected species were removed.”

Bournemouth’s Daily Echo reported that NFA member Brian Tarnoff said the practice was “unacceptable theft” and that it was vital to “send a message” to commercial pickers.

“There should be a clear policy to ban fungi removal from the Crown lands,” he added.

“A total ban would send a message that this activity is no more acceptable than carting away bushels of bluebells or collecting birds’ eggs,” added Mr Tarnoff, who was speaking at the Verderers’ Court, which looks after the forest.

Last year the Official Verderer, Dominic May, said gangs were plundering the land on an “industrial scale”. The only person with picking permission is fungi expert Brigitte Tee-Hillman, who won a legal battle against the Forestry Commission in 2006.