Editor, Although the article, ‘Biggest morel harvest in world history...’ from Mar. 10 contains many errors and is full of GNWT/ITI ‘spin’, still it is great to see government finally promoting this industry and making communities aware of the amount of money that it can generate locally.
Marie and I scouted the local burns and the fires across the South Slave last fall. The Little Buffalo and Tsu Lake fires will probably not produce much, we think, and our experience is that the cost of air charters precludes profitable fly-in harvesting operations. The presence of so many southern pickers in the burns along the highway system creates a situation in which, despite our years of harvesting experience, we cannot compete and until GNWT does something to protect northern harvesters from the organized southern harvesters the NWT will not be able to fully benefit from the mushroom harvest.
But local Fort Smith harvesters, most of them, will be fortunate this year because the best looking burn in the entire NWT is in their area along Hwy 5, between Nyarling River and the western WBNP boundary and is open for harvesting to people with aboriginal ancestry. This fire will probably produce as much or more as the Trout River fire did last summer and there will be no competition from southern harvesting operations. Unlike last year, when a huge mushroom harvest was denied to local harvesters by WBNP, barricading the road access into the Parson’s Lake burn, it is doubtful that the park will be able to prevent people from harvesting potential million-dollar-plus bounty, and the community of Fort Smith from sharing in the rewards. If the mushrooms are there, I am sure that buyers will appear. It would be great if the local First Nations would follow the Dehcho government’s lead and help to organize and assist their members to participate in this industry.
James Darkes, Fort Smith