By Ryn Gargulinski

Pilot staff writer

Anyone thinking about grabbing a pine cone or two off the forest floor better think twice.

Or at least think about trotting down to the ranger station to get the proper paperwork.

andquot;You definitely need a permit to take anything out of the forest,andquot; said Jackie Ringulet, information assistant for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Chetco Ranger District.

She said it doesn't matter if it's one thing or 100, or for personal or commercial use, permits are always required. Some areas, she added, are restricted from harvesting anything at all.

Fines for not following the rules start at $300 and only go up from there, she said.

While this may seem surprising to some, enough folks know about the process that Ringulet easily issues more than 500 permits per year.

andquot;The most popular depends on the season,andquot; she said.

More than 200 mushroom permits were sold throughout the past year's various mushroom seasons, while 180 Christmas tree permits were issued last December.

andquot;We sell all kinds,andquot; she said, andquot;bear grass, wood cutting, moss.andquot;

The list continues - from posts to prince's pine, from boughs to berries to burls.

Prices range from $10 for a rock permit up to $150 for six-months of mushroom picking.

Chetco happens to be one of the most popular of the nine ranger districts, thanks to its location and its share of goodies, according to USDA officer of special forest products Peggy Sattler.

Most people who use a lot of forest products - such as Flora Pacifica - know the system well.

andquot;There's upsides and downsides to the permit process,andquot; said one of Flora Pacifica's owners, Dennis Mitchell.

andquot;The upside is, it's fairly easy to get,andquot; Mitchell said, adding it also weeds out, so to speak, the harvesters that may destroy parts of the forest in the harvesting process.

andquot;If they don't have a permit, I'm not going to talk to (harvesters),andquot; Mitchell said, adding they never pay cash on the barrel but steady payments twice a month, further weeding out those looking to make quick cash at any cost.

andquot;The guys that just want the beer money, you're going to find problems with them.andquot;

The permits also benefit the forest service by putting money back into the districts from which the products are sold as well as gauging just how much of a product is being sold, Sattler said.

The downside, according to Mitchell, is the process can often get tedious.

Not only does one need to know who owns the land from which he is picking be it the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or a private owner but one also has to give themselves a permit on their own property.

andquot;Even if you're harvesting on your own land you have to have written permission to drive it down the road,andquot; Mitchell said. andquot;You have to write yourself a permit that states the property's address and that the vehicle has permission to move the products.andquot;

Overall, Mitchell said, it's pretty easy to get a permit from the Forest Service but a bit more bureaucratic from BOM, where one must state exactly what is being taken and from where.

andquot;My advice to anybody who is going to go picking is to take a look around to see where to find what you want,andquot; Mitchell said. andquot;It's not like you get a permit and the stuff will fall into your vehicle.

andquot;And if you don't know whose property it is, you're just out of luck.andquot;

Oregon state beaches, too, have some rules on what one can and cannot haul home.

Folks out trolling can feel free to collect a piece of driftwood or two just don't expect to gather enough to build a house.

andquot;For ornamental uses, it's OK,andquot; said Harris Beach State Park Ranger David Neighbor, andquot;to build a windchime or decorate your garden.andquot;

andquot;But a person wanted to come get a couple trailer loads to build a fence.andquot;

andquot;We can't do that,andquot; was Neighbor's answer to that one.

He said driftwood is defined as andquot;any wood that comes ashore and is less than 8 feet long and capable of being picked up by two people without mechanics.andquot;

That means no pulleys, wheelbarrows or chainsaws.

He also said if things get out of the realm of personal use and are being sold for commercial purposes, a permit is needed no matter what the quantity.

Although he said permits for vegetation and flowers are issued to people for specific reasons like scientific permits for research folks generally cannot go gather a bouquet or decide to harvest some sea grass.

Taking rock, soil and fossil materials is also not allowed, nor is disturbing anything at all in reserve areas.

andquot;The best policy is just to look and learn,andquot; Neighbor said.

He did add, however, that there are plenty of things folks are allowed to cull from the beaches without a permit.

andquot;You can gather for personal consumption the berries, fruits, mushrooms and similar edible things,andquot; Neighbor said, noting this does not include uprooting living plants to take the tubers.

andquot;And sand in your shoe is OK,andquot; he said.