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Huge market for forest moss raises concerns

e "mom and pop" businesses that are difficult to tell from a couple out for a walk in the woods, Muir said. The moss may bring the harvesters 50 cents to $2 a pound when they sell it to a wholesaler, more often at the low end of that range.

But the pounds can add up. Muir estimates again, with a huge range of variability that between 2 and 82 million pounds of moss is used in, or exported from the U.S. each year, with a final market value that could approach $165 million. Domestic sales, which are largely unknown, are estimated based on the value of export sales which are easier to track, and the known ratio between the amount of moss used locally versus that which is exported. Muir estimated that the moss being harvested in the U.S. could fill between 600 and 2,400 semi-trucks per year.

In her survey, Muir contacted 361 land managers, 97 botanists and 98 businesses. About 64 percent of botanists felt that the volume of moss being removed was of concern.

In the East, the concern about moss harvests in some areas is sufficiently high that the Monongahela National Forest has stopped issuing any harvest permits. In the Pacific Northwest, some business owners are concerned enough about illegal harvests that they have hired private security guards to patrol lands on which they have legally leased the moss rights.

"There's still a lot we don't know here, but there clearly are ecological concerns," Muir said. "Moss harvesting is a big business and it's all around us. We were doing some research up the McKenzie River valley near Eugene and we had a hard time finding a place in the forest, within a reasonable distance from roads, where the moss had not already been picked."


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Contact: Patricia Muir
muirp@science.oregonstate.edu
541-737-1745
Oregon State University
3-Aug-2004


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