Washington Farm Bureau RMAP Update - Senate Natural Resources Committee Passes RMAP Bill

April 5, 2003 - Olympia, WA - UPDATE: Negotiations continue on the issue of a cap for costs to a small forest landowner. Passage of this bill by the Senate Natural Resources Committee is a great step toward passage of final legislation that will address concerns of small forest landowners.

On Friday, April 4, the Senate Natural Resources Committee passed an amended version of HB 1095 the bill that would protect small forest landowners from many Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan (RMAP) regulations. There are still a few problems related to the cap on how much individuals may be forced to pay for culvert replacement. WFB is currently in negotiations to resolve this controversy before the bill is brought up for a vote on the Senate floor.

On Wednesday, April 2, the Senate Natural Resources Committee heard public testimony on the bill. Joel Kretz, president of Okanogan County Farm Bureau and chair of the Washington Farm Bureau RMAP Committee, testified regarding the many concerns of small forestland owners. Kretz explained the disincentives that the regulations create for small landowners across the state, especially when requirements are applied to lands other than those where the forest practice takes place. “It (RMAP checklist requirements) needs to be tied only to the revenue generation activity. Otherwise we're outlawing any proper forest management in many different ways,” Kretz stated.

Dan Boeholt of Aberdeen testified that he and his family have spent the past few years restoring old farmland to forestland. Their 40-acre forestland is located in Pacific County. Boeholt also spoke of the disincentives to good forest management decisions. “It’s actually working in reverse. ... This year when the RMAP rules came along and I had to choose where to spend my money and my effort. I did not choose to replant the riparian areas of the old agriculture land that I am restoring to forestland.”

Reps. Phil Rockefeller (D-Seattle) and Bob Sump (R-Republic) testified to the unintended consequences and many revisions necessary to bring the bill through the House and to the Senate committee.

“We could call this the law of unintended consequences, and this is indeed what we are trying to address,” said Rockefeller. “Some of the things we did in RMAP, however, while they can be implemented economically by the corporate forestry industry, are a real headache and a real burden for the smaller owners.”

Sump agreed, saying that this is a “bill that our industrial producers must have so that they can have some certainty and surety when harvesting their timber. But it did have unintended consequences when the bill was drafted that reached out and colored the futures of our small landowners.”

“Our small landowners simply have got to have relief under this bill,” said Sump. “They just simply cannot function at the same standard as our industrial producers.”

Sherry Fox, former president of Washington Farm Forestry Association, emphasized concerns with costs to small forest landowners. “We believe the legislation should include an absolute cap on the percentage of costs that small landowners would have to bear for the replacement of culverts,” Fox testified.

WFB lobbyist Hertha Lund testified to the senators that “generations of landowners have worked on the land and taken good care of their land. That’s why we have such a beautiful state here. In general, farmers and ranchers and small forest landowners are good stewards. That's what they would like to have recognized.”

“We think the bill is light-years ahead of the current regulatory scheme and has improved beyond the version passed by the House,” Lund said.

Next, this bill will go the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and if it is passed there, it will go to the full Senate and then back to the House for a concurrence vote. “We look forward to working with you in the development of a final bill,” Rockefeller told the Senate committee.

In other news from the WA State Farm Bureau...


April 3, 2003 No. 27
A THOUSAND-TON CONCRETE WEIR INSTALLED AT LOWER GRANITE DAM TO divert migrating salmon safely through the dam received this year's Grand Conceptor Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies. (AP/Seattle Times, April 3) The 10-story, 83-foot wide concrete weir can be raised and lowered much like a submarine, taking in water when it needs to descend and taking in air when it needs to rise. The weir was installed in 2001 at a cost of $11.5 million. Past winners of the award include the NASA space shuttle launch complex.

THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE IS VIRTUALLY POWERLESS TO enforce regulations requiring landowners to obtain permits in aquatic areas, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported today in the first of a two-part series on the state hydraulic code. According to The Post-Intelligencer, the law "is as toothless as a jellyfish." The newspaper said Washington Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an Olympia-based environmental group, found that "scofflaws" either failed to correct the problems they caused, or Fish and Wildlife had no record of any remedial work, in 90 percent of the "serious violations" statewide. [Washington Farm Bureau Vice President Robyn Meenach testified this morning before the House Fisheries, Ecology and Parks Committee in Olympia on SB 5375, which would amend the hydraulic code.] On Friday, The Post-Intelligencer plans a second report on tide gates "that keep saltwater out of agricultural lands but cut off migrating salmon."

U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE EDWARD LODGE HAS RULED THAT TWO ENVIRONMENTAL groups can sue the Plum Creek Timber Company over its efforts to protect bull trout, even though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has OK'd a habitat management plan that shields the company from prosecution under the Endangered Species Act. (Spokesman-Review, April 3) Plum Creek, which owns more bull trout habitat than any other private landowner in the Northwest, began working on its habitat management plan in 1997, a year before the fish were listed as "threatened." In 2000, Fish and Wildlife approved the 30-year plan, which calls for the company to follow 56 conservation principles across the 1.6 million acres it owns in Montana, Idaho and Washington. When the Pacific Rivers Council and Trout Unlimited threatened to sue, Plum Creek asked Lodge to validate the plan and order the environmental groups to pay its court costs. Instead, the judge ruled that a company cannot block any group's right to sue over plans to protect any listed species.

SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE ROBERT ZAGELOW HAS TOSSED THE QUESTION OF whether Walla Walla County can allow recreational activities such as golf courses and gun ranges in areas zoned for agriculture back to the Eastern Washington Growth Management Hearings Board. (Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, April 2) Zagelow said an earlier hearings board ruling that county regulations violated the Growth Management Act "seems to say we can never have recreational or cultural uses on agricultural land." But, he added, county development regulations appear to adequately protect agricultural lands by requiring conditional-use permits for virtually every conceivable use.

THE WALLA WALLA COUNTY COMMISSION WILL APPEAL A SUPERIOR COURT decision that eliminated many of the use restrictions placed on a proposed winery and tasting room in an area zoned exclusively for agriculture. (Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, April 2) Chairman David Carey said the commissioners decided to appeal because they felt Judge Donald Schacht should have sent the case back to them for further consideration, instead of taking it upon himself to decide what conditions should be placed on the winery. "He's taken the ability from us to make land-use decisions," Carey said.
* 2003 Washington Farm Bureau. NewsWatch is a periodic update on news of interest to agriculture. Contact Dean Boyer, director of public relations, 1-800-331-3276 or dboyer@wsfb.com, to receive NewsWatch by fax or e-mail.


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