RMAPs Update: A Solution In Sight?
By Doug Sutherland, Commissioner of Public Lands


Washington State - 7/6/02 - This spring, I have heard from many people across Washington concerned with the effects of Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans (RMAPs) on family forest owners. These plans, which are part of the Forests & Fish law passed
in 1999, are intended to improve fish habitat by repairing road culverts
that block fish passage, and by preventing road sediments from entering

However, it became clear that the RMAP requirements have some serious,
unintended consequences. To better understand these problems, I sent DNR
staff across the state to hear the concerns of family foresters and others.
Additionally, Governor Locke and I asked the Forests & Fish Policy group to
investigate these issues and recommend solutions.

Input from citizens, interest groups, and many legislators has been very
helpful in understanding the problem and was used by the Forest & Fish
Policy group to develop draft recommendations that achieve two important
goals: improving fish habitat and ensuring that family foresters can
continue to responsibly harvest timber and earn a living on their private
property. I especially want to acknowledge the role that the Washington
State Farm Bureau and its local chapters have played in organizing public
meetings to share information about RMAPs and learn citizens' concerns.

On June 19th, Lenny Young, DNR's Forest Practices Division Manager,
presented to the Forest Practices Board a summary of the issues we have
heard and draft recommendations from the Forests & Fish Policy group.

Many people have expressed concern that the RMAP rules cover landowners with
only a couple of acres, whether or not they plan to harvest timber.
Accordingly, we are considering exempting forest landowners with less than
80 acres across the state from filing a road maintenance plan for land
parcels less than 20 acres in size. We are also considering changing the
definition of a family forest owner to those who harvest less than two
million board feet per year, and greatly reducing their planning and
reporting requirements.

We have also heard a great deal of frustration expressed about the cost of
RMAPs. Replacing fish blockage culverts can cost from $3000 to $20,000,
sometimes more. The University of Washington has estimated a statewide cost
of $375 million to family foresters. We are considering two solutions to
this problem. First, repairing fish blockage culverts would be prioritized
through local watershed assessments. Currently, one culvert may be replaced
that potentially opens up large stretches of fish habitat, only to find that
fish are unable to reach that culvert because of other blockages downstream
that have yet to be repaired. By prioritizing repairs, we can create habitat
more quickly and do it in a logical manner. Second, we are already working
with the federal government and others to find funding to pay for large
portions of these repairs.

Many people are also concerned that the definition of what is a "forest
road," and therefore requires an RMAP, is unclear and includes driveways.
Similarly, many are concerned that the definition of "forest land" can be
broadly interpreted to include several types of non-forest land where trees
could potentially grow, but do not currently. To address these concerns, we
are considering definition changes including removing driveways from the
definition of a "forest road" and clarifying the types of land covered in
the law. These changes would ensure that people do not have to do RMAPs for
driveways not used for forest practices, or for roads across pastures, crop
fields, and other types of non-forest land.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this discussion. We still have a
lot of work to do, but with the help of citizens and local legislators, we
can address the concerns that have been expressed by so many while we
continue to protect our state's aquatic resources.

Forests & 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 forestland to strip malls. I am confident that we
will soon make changes that address these serious, unintended consequences
that might have occurred. We can achieve both our goals of improving fish
habitat and keeping family forestry an important part of Washington's
economy, heritage, and way of life.

This op ed was distributed to newspapers statewide on July 2, 2002


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