Before foraging in The Natural State, familiarize yourself with the Arkansas foraging laws and regulations.
To say there there seems to be a grey area around the rules about foraging in Arkansas would be an understatement.
Recently, I wrote about picking wild muscadines in Arkansas. While doing research for that article, I was told by people that even eating one muscadine in one of our National Forests would result in a citation.
Other people said they eat berries in our National Forests all the time without problems.
Recently, I read an account of hikers being scolded by an officer for collecting litter in one of our National Forests.
Of course, that is absurd. I have never met an officer or a Ranger who wouldn’t appreciate someone picking up trash.
However, it’s time we put an end to the madness and confusion.
Arkansas Foraging Laws and Regulations
I have researched, sent emails, and made numerous phone calls to find this information.
Each law or regulation has it’s source cited. Please read the source for yourself in case things change over time. Do not take my word for it.
Foraging in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest and the Ouachita National Forest
A permit is required to gather most forest products. Permits can be obtained at Forest Service District Offices.
Several forest products may be gathered without a permit in small quantities and for personal use only.
A permit is required to gather or collect any forest product in bulk or for commercial purposes.
This comes from the Code of Federal Regulations, 36CFR261.6.
The rules that govern the collection of forest products on national forest lands are in the Code of Federal Regulations, 36CFR261.6, which prohibits cutting, removing, or otherwise damaging any timber, tree, or other forest product, including special forest products and forest botanical products, except as authorized by Federal law, regulation, permit, contract, special use authorization, free-use authorization, or personal-use authorization.
Foraging at the Buffalo National River in Arkansas
The following fruits, nuts, berries or unoccupied seashells may be gathered by hand for personal use or consumption, in accordance with the noted size, quantity, collection sites and/or use or consumption restrictions:
Edible species of fruits, nuts, mushrooms, and berries may be gathered by hand for daily personal consumption. Collection for commercial purposes is prohibited.
The Superintendent of the Buffalo National River states that foraging or gathering fruits, nuts, mushrooms, or berries of edible plants will not negatively affect the park or park wildlife because they do not expect large numbers of people to be foraging in the park.
Foraging in Arkansas State Parks
Arkansas State Parks does not permit foraging for personal consumption; foraging can make a significant impact on the parks natural resources.
Arkansas State Parks Mission Statement
To provide optimum quality recreational and educational opportunities in sufficient quantities and conveniently located to meet the experience needs of state citizens and visitors; To safeguard the natural, historical and cultural resources by providing adequate facilities and skilled leadership in state parks; To enhance the economy of the state by providing recreation destinations and leisure services closely attuned to the natural, historical and cultural appeal of Arkansas, and; To provide responsible leadership statewide for the conservation of valuable state resources.
Please see these PDFs:
Park Directive 3040 Excavations
Unauthorized Searches & Park Directive 3150 State Property
Foraging Regulations from the Army Corp of Engineers
I personally contacted the Army Corp of Engineers and spoke with them concerning their foraging laws. They provided me with more information in an email after researching the subject for themselves.
The email stated:
“For the purpose of finding and then gathering items from the public lands would be considered a violation.
I have provided you with a couple of the rules that would involve foraging. (Foraging means relying on food provided by nature through the gathering of plants and small animals, birds, and insects; scavenging animals killed by other predators; and hunting. The word foraging can be used interchangeably with “hunting and gathering.”)”
US Army Corps of Engineers – Title 36
US Army Corps of Engineers
Title 36 – Parks, Forests, and Public Property
Chapter 111 – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Part 327 – Rules and Regulations governing public use of water resources development projects administered by the Chief of Engineers
Section 327.14 PUBLIC PROPERTY: (a) Destruction, injury, defacement, removal or any alteration of public property including, but not limited to, developed facilities, natural formations, mineral deposits, historical and archaeological features, paleontological resources, boundary monumentation or markers and vegetative growth, is prohibited except when in accordance with written permission of the District Commander.
Section 327.16 LOST & FOUND: All articles found shall be deposited by the finder at the Manager’s office or with a ranger. All such articles shall be disposed of in accordance with the procedure set forth in Section 327.15.
I was told to “Google Title 36” for the PDF stating these regulations.
Here are my findings: Title 36