RMAP rules still an issue despite law’s clear intent
WA State Farm Bureau News
Olympia, WA - After a 96-0 vote in the state House of Representatives
and a 49-0 vote in the Senate last year to exempt small forest landowners
from Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan rules, Washington Farm
Bureau hoped it had put the RMAP issue to rest.
But in October, the Forest Practices Board adopted new emergency rules
that caught many people, including state lawmakers, by surprise.
Instead of following the wording and intent of the bill that cleared
both houses of the Legislature without a dissenting vote, the board
adopted language that lawmakers said increases regulatory oversight,
rather than providing regulatory relief.
“When we passed (last year’s legislation), we were clearly trying
to provide relief for small forest landowners,” a group of 13 state
legislators said in a letter to the Forest Practices Board. “Yet …
you seem to have added to your power and authority to regulate small
The legislators added that they were “surprised by the blatant disregard
of our intent and express words in House Bill 1095,” and urged the
board to repeal the rules.
The Washington Farm Bureau, which had participated in rulemaking sessions
with the Department of Natural Resources, also expressed disappointment
with last-minute changes to the rules.
“Something happened between what was presented in those meetings and
what has come out in final rules,” Hertha Lund, assistant director
of government relations, told the Senate Natural Resources, Energy
and Water Committee last month. “What do we tell the small guys out
there who thought that working (through) the public process would
find them relief?”
Joel Kretz, former Okanogan County Farm Bureau president, said he
is most concerned about a 2016 deadline the Forest Practices Board
slipped into the emergency rules.
The bill passed by the Legislature exempted small forest landowners
from all RMAP regulations unless they apply for a forest practices
permit to harvest trees, and even then, they would only be required
to submit a checklist rather than a detailed plan.
“Now I’m confused,” said Kretz, who chaired the WFB RMAP Advisory
Committee. “Now we’re back to a date.”
The bill also made it clear that landowners who properly installed
culverts under an approved forest practice application and hydraulics
permit would not be required to replace them unless it was considered
a high priority for fish, and then only at public expense.
But, Lund said, the Forest Practices Board added the words “capable
of passing fish,” which had been specifically removed by the Legislature.
The result, she said, is that property owners could again be forced
to replace some legally installed culverts at their own expense.
Dan Wood, director of government relations, said Farm Bureau would
try to get the rules changed during the permanent rule-making process.
It’s also possible, Wood said, that Farm Bureau will go back to the
Legislature and ask the lawmakers to “remind” the Forest Practices
Board that it’s not free to ignore legislative intent.
“We thought we had resolved the RMAP issue, but it looks like we still
have a problem,” Wood said. “I’m not sure how the Legislature could
make it any more clear, but apparently the Forest Practices Board
still hasn’t gotten the message.”