Wenatchee, WA— Forest Service officials expect large numbers of commercial morel mushroom pickers in areas of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest burned in wildfires last fall.  The growing season for morel mushrooms will begin as snow melts and will continue through July depending upon elevation and aspect.  The exact start date for harvest will depend on when mushrooms begin to appear in fire areas. “Morel mushrooms commonly grow in late spring and early summer in burned areas the year immediately following the fires,” said Mick Mueller, Wenatchee River Ranger District environmental coordinator and amateur mycologist.  “It is not uncommon to find them growing in valley bottoms near the end of April but that will depend upon the weather we get this spring.  Soil moisture and temperature vary enough that in some years very few morels pop up in burned areas.”   Commercial mushroom harvesting permits will be sold at Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest offices starting mid-April.  All mushroom pickers will be required to purchase a permit for commercial picking. Collection or possession of more than three gallons per day or the intent to sell mushrooms requires a commercial permit.  A 4-day permit costs $20, a 30-day permit is $50 and a season permit is $100 (the spring season runs from April 15 through July 31, 2013).  Permits must be in the harvester’s possession when collecting mushrooms. Individuals with commercial mushroom harvesting permits will be able to harvest mushrooms only from areas listed on ranger district mushroom maps.  These maps will soon be available at ranger district offices and the forest web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/okawen/mushroom .