Legislator says agency rules create harmful effects on landowners - RMAP legislation was passed to prevent federal imposition of more harsh restrictions

Olympia, WA - 4/26/02 - In a letter dated April 17, 2002, State Representative Cathy McMorris, 7th District, responded to letters from landowners about the harmful effects of the "Forests and Fish" legislation she helped pass in 1999.

McMorris stated that many landowners have called or written to let her know that they consider the new road maintenance and abandonment plans (RMAPs) to be overly complex and burdensome.  She responded that she agrees, and is committed to revising the standards to ease the burden on small landowners.

The legislator said she had "reluctantly agreed to support" the "Forests and Fish" legislation (House Bill 2091) when "it became clear that environmentalist-controlled federal agencies had ambitions to regulate timber owners in our area in a manner that would guarantee that most landowners would lose the entire value of their lands and most workers would lose their jobs."  She continued, "We had already seen what these same agencies had done to our timber communities through the listing of the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet.

McMorris continued that the only way she could see to forestall such a catastrophe would be to provide a state alternative to federal action, "even if such an alternative would not be something any of us would pursue independent of the kind of danger posed by the environmentalist/regulators."  She said she believed at the time that she could not abandon this region's landowners to the hostile whims of national environmentalists.  "Therefore," she continued, "I agreed to support a bill, only after substantial modifications, that I would not have supported in the absence of a real and credible threat to the well-being of our entire region."

The 7th District rep went on to say that if HB2091 had not been approved, the "heavy hand of the federal government, at the instigation of radical environmental interests, would have imposed harsh restrictions on timber landowners to meet the burdensome requirements of both the federal endangered species and clean water acts."  This would have been disastrous for small landowners, she added.

The Legislature made it clear that the Forest Practices Board, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Ecology were to implement the legislation through rules consistent with the Forests and Fish Report, she said.  She believes much of the problem and the outrage stems not from HB2091, but on how the rules were written and how they are now being implemented by those agencies.  The agencies expanded their authority by writing onerous rules, which was not the intent of the legislators.

McMorris said she would be working with other concerned legislators for solutions to this specific problem, and that she is committed to "ensuring that landowner interests are not stymied by the same radical interests that pushed us into this position in the first place."


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