Study examines mushroom habitat

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Articles - January 2011
Thursday, December 16, 2010

 

0111_ATS12
Volunteers gather soil samples in the Deschutes National Forest as part of a study by the U.S. Forest Service on the habitat of the Matsutake mushroom.

Mushroom harvester camps in the Crescent Ranger District, which collectively rival the population of nearby towns, are weighing in on how forests are managed in an effort to protect the country’s top-producing Matsutake area.

Roughly 2,000 seasonal Matsutake mushroom pickers come to the Crescent Lake area every fall to gather the gourmet fungus for the Japanese market. A group of these harvesters and others in the Oregon mushroom-gathering community worked with the Forest Service this past fall on a multi-year study to determine the impact that winter tree thinning will have on Matsutake health. Both groups hope to find ways to lessen any impact tree thinning could have on the valuable mushroom.

Matsutake prices have fallen in the past 10 to 15 years because of competition from Korea and China, but harvesters still flock to the volcanic, well-drained soils of the Deschutes National Forest that produce the largest concentration of the mushroom in the U.S. “In the 1990s, one pound of Matsutakes was worth more than a truckload of logs,” says Carl Wilmsen, executive director of the Alliance of Forest Workers & Harvesters.

This past fall a bumper crop and international competition helped reduce prices to as low as $1 a pound for the picker. The alliance has successfully lobbied the U.S. Forest Service to reduce the total acreage thinned in the area in the past decade and to lead the collaborative study last fall to help protect the mushroom habitat.

Matsutakes, like many fungi, form a symbiotic relationship with trees, providing minerals in exchange for sugars. “These fungi are on the roots of the trees,” says Dan Luoma, an OSU mycologist and designer of the study. “If you cut down the tree, there’s no more food for the fungus.” That said, Luoma notes that cutting some trees may be beneficial because forests floors that are only 40% to 70% covered by tree canopy are prime spots for Matsutake production. Logging during the winter also may help reduce damage to dormant mushrooms. These are questions the study aims to answer once it is completed in the next few years.

PETER BELAND
 

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Editor's Letter: Power Play

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014

There’s a fascinating article in the December issue of the Harvard Business Review about a profound power shift taking place in business and society. It’s a long read, but the gist revolves around the tension between “old power” and “new power” as a driver of transformation. Here’s an excerpt:

Old power works like a currency. It is held by few. Once gained, it is jealously guarded, and the powerful have a substantial store of it to spend. It is closed, inaccessible, and leader-driven. It downloads, and it captures.

New power operates differently, like a current. It is made by many. It is open, participatory, and peer-driven. It uploads, and it distributes. Like water or electricity, it’s most forceful when it surges. The goal with new power is not to hoard it but to channel it.

The authors, Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans, don’t necessarily favor one form of power over another but merely outline how power is transitioning, and how companies can take advantage of these changes to strengthen their positions in the marketplace. 

Our Powerbook issue might be viewed as a case study in the new-power transition. This annual book of lists provides information on leading businesses, nonprofits and universities in the state. Most of the featured companies are entrenched power players now pursuing more flexible and less hierarchical approaches to doing business. Law firms, for example, are adopting new technologies and fee structures to make legal services more accessible and affordable.

This month we also take a look at a controversial new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring public companies to disclose the median pay of workers, as well as the ratio between CEO and median-worker pay. 

Part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, the rule will compel public companies to be more open about employee compensation, with the assumption that greater transparency will improve corporate performance and, perhaps, help address one of the major challenges of our time: income inequality.

New power is not only about strategy and tactics, the Harvard Business Review authors say. “The ultimate questions are ethical. The big question is whether new power can genuinely serve the common good and confront society’s most intractable problems.”

That sounds like a call to arms. Or a New Year’s resolution. Old power or new, the goals are the same: to be a force for positive change in the world. Happy 2015!

— Linda


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