Grassroots applying pressure to change broken RMAP rule

By Steve Appel, President
WA State Farm Bureau

June 2002 - I donít want to jump the gun, and Farm Bureau is not about to ease up until the state Department of Natural Resources rewrites its Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan or the Legislature steps in and fixes a bad law, but it does look like weíre headed in the right direction.

There seems to be a general consensus, expressed by a number of legislators and regulators at last monthís Forest Practices Board meeting, that RMAP doesnít make much sense and could financially hurt innocent people.

It could even force some small forestland owners to harvest trees they would otherwise leave untouched, potentially creating the kind of environmental damage the Forest & Fish law was supposed to prevent.

Around Olympia, thatís known as "unintended consequences." Where I come from, itís called "dumb." Itís also far too common in todayís legislative and regulatory arenas.

Lawmakers pass sweeping legislation without really understanding how it could affect real people. Then they give regulatory agencies carte blanche to adopt regulations to implement the law.

Regulatory agencies, of course, like blanket, one-size-fits-all programs because theyíre easier to enforce. And they hate having to do any kind of cost/benefit analysis.

Their job, donít you know, is to regulate, and working with real impacts on real people is just too messy.

It was state Sen. Bob Morton who pointed out at the Forest Practices Board meeting that RMAP, which is supposedly to keep sediment out of rivers and streams, was being driven by the federal listing of salmon under the Endangered Species Act.

But runoff, Morton noted, is a much bigger problem in rainy Western Washington than east of the Cascades, where precipitation may average less than 30 inches a year.

In addition, there arenít any salmon to above Chief Joseph Dam, which takes in most of the rivers and streams of Northeast Washington. Why, Morton asked, would the state impose salmon protections on a region without any salmon?

So what did possess regulators to think a single, uniform set of regulations would work for all regions of the state? Donít they know how diverse we are? Or donít they care?

Luckily, a lot of Farm Bureau members in Okanogan County did care. They cared enough to raise a ruckus, which, I might add, didnít sit well with some government officials who apparently felt intimidated by people voicing their objections to another government outrage. Letís just chalk that up to another unintended consequence of bad legislation and over regulation.

The moral of this is that elected officials need to pay closer attention to legislation when they pass it; regulators need be more mindful of the impact their rules will have before they adopt them; and neither should be surprised when angry and frustrated taxpayers remind them who they work for. 

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Steve Appel is a wheat grower in Whitman County and president of the Washington Farm Bureau. To respond to this column, send an e-mail to the Washington Farm Bureau

Click here for more information about RMAPS from the WA State Farm Bureau.

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