Background: In 1997, in anticipation of the
listing of Pacific Northwest salmon populations under the Endangered
Species Act, and at the instigation of the Forest Practices Board,
various state and federal agencies, tribes, environmental groups and
the timber industry began negotiations that culminated in the drafting
of the Forest and Fish Report. (The Association of Washington Counties
joined the process late in the negotiations, and the environmental
groups ultimately pulled out before the report was finished.)
The report established four goals: compliance with
the ESA for aquatic and riparian-dependent species on nonfederal
forestlands; restoration and maintenance of riparian habitat on
nonfederal forestlands to support a harvestable supply of fish;
compliance with the federal Clean Water Act; and to keep the timber
industry in Washington economically viable.
In 1999, the Legislature adopted the Forest and Fish
Act, essentially enacting the Forest and Fish Report, and directed the
Forest Practices Board to develop rules to implement the law. The
Legislature required that rules adopted pursuant to Forests and Fish
"be as specific as reasonably possible while also allowing an
applicant to propose alternate plans in response to site-specific
physical features" (RCW 76.09.370). The board adopted permanent
rules in June 2001 (WAC 222-24).
The Forest and Fish Report identified sediment in
runoff from forest roads and culverts that blocked fish passage as
significant problems. As part of its Forest and Fish rules, the Forest
Practices Board required all owners of forestlands in Washington to
develop Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans, and to upgrade (or
abandon) all forest roads to new Department of Natural Resources
standards for commercial logging by 2015.
Who is affected: The RMAP regulations affect
all owners of forestlands, regardless of acreage or actual forest
practices, i.e. you do not need to be actively engaged, or planning to
engage in cutting timber; the DNR does not need to show that your roads
are causing any environmental damage or harm to riparian habitat. There
is no "exemption" in the rule for forestland owners with less
than 20 acres.
For purposes of RMAP, the DNR defines forestland as
land that supports, or is capable of supporting, a
"merchantable" stand of trees and is not actively being used
in a way that is incompatible with growing timber.
The DNR defines forest road as any "ways, lanes,
roads or driveways" on forestland that has been used for any forest
practices or forest-management activities, including fire control, since
1974. A "merchantable" stand of trees are any trees that will
yield logs or fiber suitable in size and quality for the production of
lumber, plywood, pulp or other forest products, and of sufficient value
to at least cover all the costs of harvest and transportation to
The bottom line is if you own land with any type of
road and trees on it, you may be affected by RMAP. If you have any
"typed water" on the property – defined by the DNR as any
seasonal or year-round flowing streams, rivers, ponds lakes,
non-forested wetlands or bodies of salt water -- you could be facing
How much will RMAP cost: According to the U.S.
Forest Service, there are an estimated 91,000 family forest owners in
Washington whose holdings "tend to be located on lower elevation,
highly productive land interspersed with streams and rivers." A
study by the University of Washington found that at least 30 percent of
these family forest owners have fish-bearing streams on their property.
The same UW study estimated the cost for family forest owners to comply
with RMAP at $375 million. Other estimates are $7,700 per mile to
upgrade forest roads, plus ongoing maintenance, and up to $20,000 per
culvert. Abandoning a road could cost $5,500 per mile. The University of
Washington estimates that family forest owners will need to replace
8,500 culverts on 6,500 miles of forest roads. (Since RMAP applies to
all streams, with or without fish, the number of affected forestland
owners and the anticipated cost could be much greater.)
What must an RMAP include: Each RMAP must include
maps showing all forest roads, orphaned roads, "typed" water,
type A and B wetlands adjacent to or crossed by roads, planned or
potential road abandonments, streams that parallel roads, and an
inventory of their condition. It must also include a detailed
description of the first year’s work, a schedule for completing RMAP
requirements for the entire property within 15 years, description of
routine road-maintenance and storm-maintenance practices, an assessment
of orphaned roads’ risk to public resources or public safety, and
measures that may need to be taken to correct any problems. An orphaned
road is a road or railway grade that the forestland owner has not used
for forest practice activities since 1974.
Who sees your RMAP: RMAP rules require DNR to
consult with the state Department of Ecology, state Department of Fish
and Wildlife, tribes, and "interested parties" on the review
and approval of RMAPs. Completed RMAPs become public records available
What is the timetable for complying with RMAP: Property
owners with more than 500 acres of forestlands in any DNR region were
required to submit a Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan covering 20
percent of their roads or base forestland by Dec. 31, 2001. They are
required to submit plans covering an additional 20 percent of their
property each year.
Property owners with less than 500 acres in a DNR
region are required to submit a limited RMAP with their first
forest-practices application (covering the area affected by the forest
practice). Forest practices that require a permit application include
growing timber, harvesting timber, processing timber, brush control,
building trails or roads, salvage of downed trees, and applying
fertilizers or pesticides. Small forestland owners must then submit an
RMAP covering the remainder of their property within one year.
All forestland owners must have completed an RMAP for
their entire property by the end of 2005, regardless of their acreage
and whether they have submitted a forest-practices application. All
forest road upgrades must be completed by 2015.
In addition, the DNR could require forestland owners
to submit a plan to correct the problem within 90 days if the department
determines that their forest roads have "the potential to damage
public resources." Public resources are defined as water, fish,
wildlife and any government-owned capital improvements. Since the
premise of the Forest and Fish Act and RMAP is that all forest roads
near "typed" waters have the potential to damage water quality
and/or riparian habitat, theoretically the rules allow DNR to require
nearly 30,000 forestland owners (based on the UW study) to submit RMAPs
long before the 2005 deadline.
Continuing obligations: Once forestland owners
submit RMAPs and pay to upgrade forest roads and/or replace culverts,
they are responsible for maintaining those roads and culverts to DNR
standards. Property owner also must notify potential buyers of any unmet
or ongoing RMAP obligations.
Enforcement: The DNR may impose civil penalties
for failing to comply with RMAP rules, which could become a lien on the
forestland owner’s property. If DNR determines that a forestland owner
is out of compliance with an RMAP work schedule and the work is
necessary to prevent potential or actual damage to "public
resources," the department can issue a stop-work order that
restricts use of "the affected road segment."
The following summarizes some of the problems
Washington Farm Bureau has identified with the RMAP regulations.
o RMAP places a time-consuming and
potentially costly burden on private property owners even where no
environmental problems have been shown to exist. It is a blanket
one-size-fits-all governmental approach that erodes private property
rights and penalizes private citizens who have done nothing wrong.
o RMAP imposes costly regulations
RETROACTIVELY on private property owners who, in good faith,
followed state and federal guidelines for maintaining forest roads,
even if those roads have not been used for logging in decades. In
many instances, those roads may be used only a few times a year as
landowners check on their property.
o RMAP imposes regulations to prevent
environmental damage from forest roads used for logging even when
property owners have no intention of harvesting their timber. It is
unreasonable to force property owners who do not plan to harvest
their trees to meet standards designed for logging on private roads
that may be seldom used.
o Some private forestland owners could be
forced to harvest trees they had no intention of cutting in order to
pay for the road improvements, not only resulting in more trees
being cut on private lands, but potentially creating the same type
of environmental damage the regulations were supposedly adopted to
prevent. The Department of Natural Resources even recognizes this
possibility when it suggests that private forestland owners time
their harvests to coincide with the need to pay for RMAP
o RMAP is unfair. Private property owners
are being required to finance public improvements. A DNR
publication, "Improving Family Forest Roads for Public
Benefit," acknowledges, "Forest landowners are faced with
privately financing improvements to their forest roads even though
the improvements only benefit public resources." Private
individuals should not be required to foot the bill for benefits to
public resources that the public deems important. In the paper cited
above, the DNR concluded, "Family forest owners cannot afford
the entire cost of making road improvements mandated by new state
forest practices rules. Public funding is necessary to help family
forest owners better protect public resources."
o The state should not impose RMAP
regulations on private forestland owners until it has met the same
requirements on state-owned forestlands. The DNR has already said it
may not have the money or resources to meet the same deadlines it is
imposing on private forestland owners.
o RMAP is another example of the federal
government using state agencies to impose federally driven
regulations on residents of Washington state. The DNR also
acknowledges this in the same paper cited above when it says,
"As these obligations are a direct outgrowth of the Endangered
Species Act, the federal government should help family forest owners
meet their RMAP obligations."
o The RMAP regulations are vague, making
it difficult if not impossible for forestland owners to know exactly
what they are required to do, or what it will cost them. Many
on-the-ground decisions are left up to the discretion of DNR field
o RMAP could create financial hardship for
many family foresters and harm the family forest-products industry.
o RMAP creates a restrictive covenant on
private lands that transfers from seller to buyer in perpetuity.
What is Farm Bureau’s goal: Eliminate RMAP
requirements on small forestland owners that could cause financial
hardship and/or interfere with the exercise of 5th Amendment
and private property rights.
© Washington Farm Bureau, 2002
FB will fight costly forest road
rules as far as necessaryJune
Washington Farm Bureau will explore
administrative, regulatory and legislative ways to fix problems with
new state regulations that could cost small forestland owners millions
If all else fails, Farm Bureau is
willing to take the matter to court.
That was the strategy mapped out
last month by Hertha Lund, assistant director of government relations,
in the first of several Farm Bureau meetings scheduled around the
state to explain the Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan (RMAP)
The rules, adopted last year by the
Forest Practices Board to implement the Forest and Fish Act, require
all property owners with "merchantable" trees to upgrade
forest roads to commercial logging standards within 15 years, or
abandon them, even if they never intend to harvest the timber.
The University of Washington has
estimated the rules could cost small forestland owners $375 million
– including $7,700 per mile of forest road and up to $20,000 per
culvert to allow fish passage.
Lund said the rules place a costly
burden on private property owners even where no environmental problems
may exist. They also take a blanket approach to regulation that
penalizes private citizens who have done nothing wrong.
She said some landowners have said
they may be forced to cut down trees to afford road upgrades even
though they would prefer to leave them standing.
"Even the Department of Natural
Resources sees a fairness problem," Lund said.
In a March white paper outlining
issues with the rules, "Improving Family Forest Roads for Public
benefit," the DNR noted: "Forest landowners are faced with
privately financing improvements to their forest roads even though the
improvements only benefit public resources."
The DNR also concluded: "This
extensive investment … may further erode the economic viability of
But the financial burden is not the
only issue, Lund said. The rules also raise concerns about privacy and
For example, the rules require
landowners to inventory all forest roads, "orphaned roads,"
streams and wetlands on their property and provide an assessment of
the risk to "public resources" and safety as part of their
The rules then state that DNR will
review these plans with the state Department of Ecology, the
Department of Fish and Wildlife, tribes and "interested
parties." Completed RMAPs become public records available to
Lund said Farm Bureau has already
started talking with DNR and key state legislators about the problems
created by RMAP and possible solutions. State Public Lands
Commissioner Doug Sutherland told the Forest Practices Board last
month that his office is preparing a list of "fixes" that
could be applied administratively or through the regulatory process,
along with those issues that may need to be addressed by the
"The process is started, and we
seem to be headed in the right direction," said Dean Boyer,
director of public relations for the Washington Farm Bureau.
But he reminded the nearly 300
people who attended the meeting in Montesano that "the
grass-roots are still the key to success."
He urged Farm Bureau members and
other small forestland owners to stay informed; talk to their
neighbors about RMAP; call, write or e-mail Sutherland, their county
commissioners and their state legislators, and to attend Forest
Practices Board meetings.
Boyer added that members need to be
ready to "turn up the heat" if the process veers off course.
"We have their attention,"
Boyer said, referring to a pair of anti-RMAP rallies organized by the
Okanogan County Farm Bureau that drew nearly 2,000 people. "Now
we have to make sure they continue listening to us. You – the people
in this room and all your friends and neighbors – are the ones who
can make that happen."
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