Delivered on February 17, 2015
Mr. Speaker, last year’s extreme forest fires burned an area of over three million hectares. While it was likely the worst fire season we’ve ever had, wildland fires are a natural occurrence, leading to forest and wildlife renewal.
One early sign of renewal is the appearance of morel mushrooms, and we anticipate a bumper crop this summer.
Morel mushrooms are a prized delicacy sought by national and international food service markets. They cannot be cultivated in a commercial environment, and NWT morels, in particular, are known to be of better quality, taste, texture and size than those found elsewhere.
We saw evidence of the economic potential of this resource last summer, when residents in the Deh Cho – working with southern buyers – realized an estimated 750 thousand dollars from the harvest of morel mushrooms in the Fort Simpson vicinity. Mr. Speaker, if this year’s harvest meets expectations, it could be worth as much as ten times that amount for residents in communities around Great Slave Lake.
The harvest of NWT morels offers an opportunity to make a significant contribution to our Northern economy. Mr. Speaker, our role as Government is to establish an environment in which such opportunities can be identified, pursued and realized.
The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has been preparing for a significant harvest of morels for a number of years. As well, ENR will be pursuing amendments to the Forest Management Act to allow for the regulation of mushrooms.
In anticipation of this year’s morel crop, ITI, along with our partners, is developing a comprehensive handbook and field guide – and is preparing to deliver a number of orientation workshops to help inform, prepare and protect NWT residents interested in taking part in this year’s harvest.
We hope to be able to advise southern buyers that they will not need to bring large crews of pickers to the NWT – highlighting, instead, that we have a trained, knowledgeable resident workforce in our communities to support the morel harvest.
The NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy speaks of the importance of diversifying our territorial, regional and community economies by investing in Northern businesses and taking advantage of resources that are readily available to residents of the NWT.
Mr. Speaker, morel mushrooms are one such resource that is ripe for the picking we look forward to a bountiful crop this summer.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.