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In Southern Alberta, we are blessed by being a few hour’s drive from 7 national parks and over 20 provincial parks.

Few cities in the world can rival Calgary for its easy access to mountain wilderness and backcountry hiking.

However, in these protected land areas, you aren’t allowed to legally forage wild plants and mushrooms without a permit and those permits are often difficult and time-consuming to attain.

So, where can you freely go foraging for wild plants and mushrooms in Alberta? Here are 3 helpful foraging tips.

Tip #1: Find Your Local Crown Land

Rocky Mountain Views

Did you know that close to 95% of Canada is considered Crown Land? In these areas, there isn’t private real estate and the land largely remains open and accessible to citizens for recreation, camping and exploration.

Fortunately, Alberta has a huge amount of accessible Crown Land areas along the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies, which are called PLUZs (Public Land Use Zones). In these areas, you can legally forage and wildcraft plants and mushrooms.

It’s important to educate yourself about your rights, responsibilities and restrictions in a PLUZ before you plan to go there. These areas have little infrastructure and almost nothing in the way of services so you have to be fully prepared.

Here are my favourite PLUZs for their great combination of foraging and scenic beauty along the eastern slope of the Canadian Rockies in Southern Alberta where I live:

  1. Ghost Wilderness PLUZ
  2. MacLean Creek PLUZ
  3. Porcupine Hills PLUZ
  4. Livingstone PLUZ
  5. Upper Clearwater PLUZ
  6. Kananaskis PLUZ (separate from Highway 40 in Kananaskis Country).

All of these wilderness areas are a relatively short drive from Calgary. If you’re living in Edmonton or Lethbridge there is also excellent access to Public Land Use Zones near these cities.

Here’s a handy map of all the PLUZs along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains:

Tip #2: Find Your Foraging Community

Foraging Community

Foraging is best done in a community with other people who share your passion and interest in edible and medicinal plants and mushrooms.

You will find that you will learn much faster through asking questions, group storytelling and interacting with other more experienced foragers than from a book.

I recommend becoming a member of the excellent Alberta Mycology Society and attending forays and annual retreats to meet experienced mushroom foragers.

You can join the Banff And Canmore Hiking Community Facebook Group that I run to find out about foraging classes and events or you can look for a local meetup group to discover group hikes and meet new people.

Tip #3: Educate Yourself About The Local Ecology

Alberta Rockies Foothills

One of the reasons why climate change is accelerating and biodiversity is collapsing is because our public school system covers little to nothing about understanding native flora, fauna and funga — and living in balance and harmony with our local ecosystem.

How many school trips take us to a forest to learn about native plants, animals and mushrooms? And how much can you learn about nature from a textbook or sitting in a classroom? The best way to learn is from nature itself on group hiking and foraging adventures.

I honestly can’t think of a single memorable school field trip that involved local plant and mushroom identification apart from doing Cubs and Scouts trips during the evenings and weekends when I was in school. Hopefully, that’s changing now.

You can educate yourself online by joining Facebook groups, watching YouTube videos and getting a field guide to Alberta’s Native Plants And Mushrooms. There are so many excellent resources available on the Internet but nothing beats community and learning from experienced local foragers.

If you want to learn through an experiential learning adventure then join me on one of my Eco-Mindfulness Workshops or get my digital field guides to Rocky Mountain flora, fauna and fungi.

I hope you enjoyed these 3 tips for foraging wild plants and mushrooms in Alberta. If you ever have any questions feel free to reach out through email.

Kyle Pearce

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