By Steve Appel, President
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
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
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
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
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
Click here for
more information about RMAPS from the WA State Farm Bureau.