DNR admits RMAPs may be
Okanogan Chronicle staff
July 16, 2002
Okanogan County, WA - Problems with road
maintenance and abandonment plan requirements were identified
recently by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR),
including that they might be unconstitutional and illegal.
"DNR did a really good job of
identifying a lot of the problems. They made a lot of progress
on solutions, but there is a long way to go," said Joel
Kretz, Okanogan County Farm Bureau president. "I was
surprised at the movement in the DNR."
Commissioner of Public Lands Doug
Sutherland told nearly 1,000 people at the Okanogan County
fairgrounds March 26 he would help find a resolution to
complaints against RMAP requirements. He directed his staff to
identify problems with RMAP requirements.
RMAP requires landowners with
merchantable timber - defined as any trees that could be sold to
cover the cost of harvest - and private roads to submit plans to
the DNR by 2005 detailing how and when roads are to be upgraded
or abandoned at landowners' expense.
RMAP requirements were adopted
under the Forests and Fish Act to prevent sediment runoff from
private property into public waterways, such as lakes and
streams, and protect endangered fish such as steelhead and
Chinook salmon, according to DNR officials.
Kretz met with Sutherland and
state officials several times since the March meeting to try and
find acceptable resolutions. More meetings are expected, but
Kretz said he is unsure when any changes will take place.
"It went from a couple of
months when it was 'these are the rules you are going to do,' to
'gosh, there are some problems with this,' " said Kretz.
"We let them put their cards on the table . . . they have
actually gone farther than I expected."
DNR officials presented a
three-page list of problems with RMAP requirements that is
broken into five sections on how to address the various
problems, such as changes in rules or laws, administrative
changes, issues to be settled by education, issues under
evaluation and "broader concerns," according to DNR
Problems cited for recommended
changes of rules or law include heavy financial burdens on
family forest owners, RMAP standards too high, RMAP forms too
complex, requirements are "one size fits all," and
indescriptive definitions of family forest owners, forest road
and forest land.
"RMAPs are required even
where there is no problem," according to the DNR list.
"There is no prioritization of culvert replacements."
Changes in rules or law also could
address culvert replacements required despite downstream
blockages, early deadlines, decreasing roads needed for
firefighting and the unfeasible annual reporting requirement,
according to DNR records.
Issues that could be handled
administratively include inconsistent guidance to family forest
owners, lack of flexibility in culvert sizing and issues with
DNR staff "directing unnecessary culvert
replacements," according to the DNR list.
Issues still under evaluation by
the DNR include possible additional costs from federal cost
sharing for fish blockage repairs and land buyer/seller
notification requirements decreasing property value and impeding
Broader concerns of the DNR
include the possibility of RMAP requirements being
unconstitutional, illegal and a possible property taking; RMAP
public records available for people seeking to cause trouble;
landowners bearing burden of maintaining roads, and "agency
access to family forest owners lands may be an infringement upon
Sutherland, in a written comment
after a June 19 meeting of the forest practices advisory board,
said it "became clear that the RMAP requirements have some
serious, unintended consequences."
He noted that a number of changes
"Forests and fish and the
RMAP rules were never intended to put family foresters out of
business, force them to harvest to pay for culvert replacement,
or to convert forest land to strip malls," he continued.
Changes to the RMAP requirements
will take action by the DNR, state Legislature and state forest
practices advisory board, said Kretz. The advisory board took no
action on RMAP but heard testimony against the requirements
during the June 19 meeting.
"We are kind of at a
crossroads right now," said Kretz. "We haven't been
invited to the table yet, but we are watching."
Okanogan County Farm Bureau
opposes RMAP requirements and is supported by the state branch
of the Farm Bureau. Kretz said bureaus around the state are
applying pressure to state legislators in hopes of seeing
"The process has got some
positive direction," said Kretz. "This is on simmer
right now. We are trying to keep people involved . . . a lot of
this is behind the scenes right now. We have to come up with
solutions we want."