V. Paul Reynolds, Special to the Piscataquis Observer • March 26, 2017
The gathering of wild things for home consumption has always been regarded by my family as one of life’s most basic pleasures. Whether it’s picking fiddlehead greens along a stream bed in late April, picking fall mushrooms to accompany the anticipated November venison back straps, or plucking big, fat juicy black raspberries in late August, the fruits of the gatherer are a marvelous gift from Nature.
In my book, “Backtrack,” homage is paid to my favorite late summer activity: “For the True Gatherer, foraging for wild berries on a sunny day, when there is an afternoon breeze stirring, is a special kind of peace.”
Sadly, that special kind of peace is about to be shattered by yet another of modern society’s most intrusive contrivance: another law.
According to David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), a bill has been proposed in this session of the State Legislature that would regulate foraging for wild things, from raspberries to dandelion greens, mushrooms and “countless other wild edibles.” This gatherer’s nightmare is LD 128, An Act to Prohibit Foraging on Private Land without written permission.
Listen to this. The new law, if it passes, will, according to Trahan, require us gatherers to secure written landowner permission to forage or transplant any wild food in any amount. Violation will be a Class E crime punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. The plot sickens. If you forage illegally without permission, and you are carrying a sidearm for personal protection, it becomes a Class B crime: a $20,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison!
The implications of this proposed law are far-reaching and the toxic tentacles of treachery reach beyond the obvious. As Trahan notes, this law would, in effect, overturn Maine’s doctrine of “implied access,” which permits wild edible gatherers to access private wildlands that are not posted.
Writes Trahan, “If LD 128 passes, it will be the equivalent of reverse posting.”
That’s not all. Maine Game Wardens would be tasked with the lion’s share of outdoor edible enforcement. Our wardens already spend too much time tied up with recreational vehicle enforcement and drug busting. So the ultimate irony, adding insult to injury, is that your hunting and fishing license fees, which pay outdoor law enforcement, will be used to keep you and your family out of the berry patch!
Don’t kid yourself, LD 128 will be the death knell for those of us in Maine who enjoy gathering wild edibles.
If you are concerned contact your state legislator and express your opinion about this ill-conceived piece of bad legislation.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at http://www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.