Farm Bureau brings property owners up to speed on latest assault on property rights
By Mary Swoboda
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“For most of our nation’s history, people could make plans. For the most part, they could expect today’s laws to be tomorrow’s laws; hence, they could plan for the future. Today that’s not true.” Walter E. Williams
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The Washington Farm Bureau has been hosting meetings across the state to educate family farmers and ranchers and small forestland owners about the negative impact of new forest-road regulations. Monday evening, June 10, property owners from five counties gathered at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds in Bremerton to learn about Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans (RMAPs) from Farm Bureau staff members Hertha Lund and Dean Boyer.
The state has mandated all landowners with a "merchantable" stand of trees on their property, or land that “could” support trees, to submit a Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan (RMAP) to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by 2006.
New regulations require all forest roads on state and private land either be upgraded or removed in accordance with DNR standards within 15 years in order to protect fish.
RMAP is the means to implement the regulations.
Every property owner must submit an RMAP that includes a map showing all “forest” roads, orphaned roads, water sources and wetlands, with an inventory of their condition and their risk to “public resources” and/or “public safety.” The plan must be in DNR’s possession by 2006. Actual implementation must be completed at the end of 15 years.
According to University of Washington estimates, complying with RMAP could cost private property owners nearly $400 million. This does not include the hundreds of millions of dollars state taxpayers will pay for compliance with RMAP on state lands.
Patty Lent, a candidate for the Kitsap County Commission said, "The cost factor alone prohibits the average property owner from complying with such stringent regulations. Our state has some of the most liberal regulations, laws and ordinances. We need to get back to the people making choices for themselves instead of government dictating to us."
In addition, individual RMAPs will become public record, available to anyone to use against the property owner.
RMAP increases the liability to both property owners and real estate agents who sell their property. Property owners are required to advise potential buyers of RMAP obligations and can be held financially responsible if the buyer is not notified or if the plan is invalid.
Art Locke of Century 21 Anchor Associates in Bremerton finds the rules too vague and confusing. “We’re licensed to sell real estate and are held accountable for laws that affect our clients, both buyers and sellers. From what I’ve seen, there are no definitive rules on what property falls under RMAP. And what about the undefined liability? Will real estate agents be sued if a seller is sued? What are we supposed to do, stop selling real estate?”
The state is forcing private property owners to maintain “forest” roads to DNR standards (whatever they may be) “in perpetuity.” Since government standards continually change, it is almost certain new, even more costly standards will replace current standards if lawmakers do not reverse the burden of regulation on property owners and taxpayers.
The Farm Bureau recognizes the political reality in this state is our elected representatives cannot remove this law by themselves; they need the support and backing of people from all across Washington.
Hertha Lund, Assistant Director of Government Relations, said the Farm Bureau’s goal is to protect property rights and civil liberties, as well as eliminate the unfair and discriminatory financial and regulatory burdens being placed on private property owners by RMAP. The Farm Bureau is working with DNR, the Forest Practices Board and the Legislature to fix this. However, “if all else fails, we’ll look at a legal challenge,” Ms. Lund said. “The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and Article 1, Section 16 of the State Constitution are very clear that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation.”
Dean Boyer, Director of Public Relations, added that the Farm Bureau cannot do this alone.
“We’ve got the process started and we have their attention. Grass-roots activism is the key to keeping their attention. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” Mr. Boyer concluded.
Six ways you can help:
* Contact Public Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland. He is an elected official and needs to hear from his constituents. Ask him to, at the very least, delay enforcement and extend the timetable until the Legislature can fix the problem. Address: P.O. Box 47001, Olympia WA 98504. Phone: 360-902-1004. FAX: 360-902-1775. E-mail: email@example.com
* Contact your legislators. Make sure they are aware of RMAP and its effect on small private property owners. http://www.leg.wa.gov/wsladm/default.htm
* Ask political candidates where they stand on RMAP and private property issues.
* Tell your neighbors. Spread the word on RMAP as widely as possible.
* Write letters to the editor.
* Stay informed. Contact the Washington Farm Bureau to receive regular e-mail updates. Address: P.O. Box 2009, Olympia WA 98507. Phone: 1-800-331-3276. Fax: 360-357-9939. E-mail: RMAP@wsfb.com.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Washington Farm Bureau: www.wsfb.com
Department of Natural Resources: www.wa.gov/dnr/base/aboutdnr.html
Washington Forest Practices Board: http://www.wa.gov/dnr/base/boardscouncils/forest_practices.htm
© 2002 Mary Swoboda. Publication or redistribution is permitted without prior notification provided it is published in its entirety with no modifications.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]