“I’m not about to be run out of town by a fascist law with no constitutional basis!” says law instructor about RMAPs

by Mark Alan

Posted 5/11/02 - That’s how Real Estate Law instructor, Kathy Power, summed up her speech before what many described as the largest political gathering in Okanogan County history on Tuesday evening, March 26th in the Agriplex building at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds.

State Senator, Bob Morton, one of the evening’s invited speakers, described the crowd as, “The backbone of Okanogan County” - a phrase which aptly described the gathering that newly hired Okanogan County Executive Fair Director, Rob Chambers, estimated at 800—900 people. “We set up folding chairs for 600 people”, said Chambers as volunteers were busy manhandling two more sets of bleachers into the Agriplex through its big south entrance. Two sets of bleachers had been added previous to them. Even after that impromtu addition, there were still more people than seats.

The focal point of the meeting hosted by the Okanogan County Farm Bureau, was RMAPs (Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans). RMAPs have been mandated by the Washington State Legislature and requires private roads on any land capable of growing trees to be brought up to federal environmental standards or else face abandonment. This new law pertains to parcels of land 2 acres and larger.

“The ESA [federal Endangered Species Act] is the most fascist law ever enacted”, says Power, “All the rest of this is just fallout from it.”

Okanogan County Farm Bureau President, Joel Kretz, a local rancher well known for his stand on cougar predation and overpopulation, was also a speaker and moderator at the event and estimates his personal cost to bring his 1300 acres in Wacaunda into compliance with the new law at $70,000.00. “Even if I can’t afford to comply and decide to sell, my land is devalued by that $70,000.00 obligation I’m now required by law [RMAPs] to disclose to the buyer. I believe that constitutes a ‘taking’ “, says Kretz.

Kretz continued from there, saying, “There has been a huge shift back to common sense in the DNR. But that can change with one election, and trusting a Jennifer Belcher with the future of my land isn’t an option..” According to Kretz, the land owners of Okanogan County were not allowed any input into this law, describing his visual image of the proceedings as, “A large table of vultures fighting over scraps of the carcass of the small private landowner. The only seat we got at the table was as the main course.” “The only thing I can identify is the feds are going to promise not to prosecute us for a “take” under the ESA [Endangered Species Act]”, he added, when asked if he saw any positive aspects to the new RMAPs law.

Both Kretz and Power received standing ovations from the appreciative crowd.

Commissioner of Public Lands, Doug Sutherland, didn’t fare as well this the audience. In his speech, he promised to try and “sweeten the lemonade”, reminding the crowd that the people they need to convince are, “Those voters living within a 40 mile radius of the Space Needle.” One land owner within earshot at the meeting drew a chuckle when he voiced his opinion that, “If it’s Jim Jones’ Guyana lemonade he’s talking about, sweetening it won’t undo the final effects.”

How do Okanogan County’s state representatives stand on the RMAPs issue? Representative Bob Sump says he is firmly against it, Senator Bob Morton, although he voted for passage of the law, says he would be in favor of a moratorium on implementation, and Cathy McMorris can’t recall, for the record, whether or not she was a co-sponsor to the bill. McMorris, although present at the gathering, was the only member of the legislative trio who did not speak that evening.

Other invited speakers included Bonnie Lawrence of the Okanogan Resource Council, Mike Polson, Executive Director of Washington Agricultural Legal Foundation, and Bill Pickell, Executive Director of the Washington Contract Loggers Association.

Kathy Power, who owns Real Estate Awareness Seminars and specializes in continuing education, says there will be another meeting on Thursday April 11th at 6:00pm at the Agriplex. Power indicates that the April 11th meeting will be focused on developing a battle plan from the grass-roots level, saying, “We need to attack the problem. It’s time for us to make a real stand. We’ve heard from the politicians - this next meeting we want to hear from the people that are affected by this law. We’re going to get organized and we’re hoping for an even bigger turnout. I think a lot of those people were there last week to give their input and didn’t get the opportunity. We need their input. We need their ideas. We need their energy.”

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