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 forest landowners.”

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.”


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