Diverse push for salal permits on Peninsula
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Joe Smillie/Peninsula Daily News
Ty Bingham, foreground, of the U.S. Forest Service processes a salal permit in the Forest Service’s Forks office Wednesday.

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS –– U.S. Forest Service employees reported mixed demand Wednesday, one of four days when permits are issued to harvest salal in Olympic National Forest.

The Forks office had to turn people away. 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.”

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

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.

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.

Date change a factor

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 will issue permits again Wednesday at the Quilcene office, 295142 S. U.S. Highway 101. The office opens at 8 a.m. The phone number is 360-765-2200.

A cash crop

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

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.

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

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: October 30. 2013 5:55PM
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