From the May 2002 Idaho Observer:
The letter below was sent out to people who own family forest lands in Washington as the Department of Natural Resources began to enforce RMAPs
January 25, 2002
Dear Forest Landowner:
All forest landowners in Washington State are required by law (Chapter 222-24 WAC) to submit a Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan (RMAP) to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for all forest roads on their land. Initial RMAPS covering at least 20% of a large forest landowner's property were due no later than December 31, 2001. If you are a forest landowner of more than 500 acres and have not submitted an RMAP, please contact the DNR Northeast Region office within 30 days of receiving this letter.
A variety of assistance is available in order to help forest landowners in completing and submitting a RMAP to meet the obligation. Forms of assistance offered include: phone assistance, in-person visits with RMAP Foresters - either in the office or on-site, map products, and RMAP templates. If you are a forest landowner and have not submitted an RMAP, and are interested in any of the above-mentioned forms of assistance, please contact the DNR Northeast Region office at (509) 684-7474. Thank you.
(signed) Randy Nelson
The memo below from the office of Public Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland is an overview of the problems with privately-owned forest lands and the solutions to them as provided through RMAPs.
Improving Family Forest Roads for Public Benefit
Assisting family forest owners meet Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan (RMAP) obligations
Historically, family forest landowners have constructed and maintained their forest roads in accordance with state forest practices rules.
Those rules changed in June of 2001, with Washington's adoption of new Forests & Fish legislation. Anticipating the listing of several fish and aquatic species, private landowners, public agencies, tribes and other Timber, Fish & Wildlife stakeholders identified forest management practices that contribute to habitat loss and then negotiated new rules to address existing problems and prevent future environmental degradation.
Participants identified forest roads as a major source of sediment delivery to fish-bearing streams, which contributes to a loss of critical aquatic habitat. Fish-blocking culverts were likewise identified as a prime factor in the loss of up-stream habitat. In response, Forests and Fish negotiators concluded that all forest roads must be assessed to determine the amount of work necessary to improve habitat.
New state rules for forest roads
As of May 2001, every forest owner is required to develop a road maintenance and abandonment plan (RMAP) for his or her property. New state rules give landowners five years to complete roadwork planning and 15 years to complete the actual roadwork.
Landowners with 500 or more acres are required to submit yearly plans to DNR. The first plan was due Dec. 31, 2001, and had to address 20 percent of ownership. Landowners with less than 500 acres must submit their first plan with their first Forest Practices Application form, or before December 31, 2005 - whichever comes first. Both groups of forest owners, however, must complete all road improvements by December 31, 2015.
Family forest owners in Washington State
By federal estimates, 91,000 small family forest owners manage more than three million acres of Washington forestland. In general, their ownerships tend to be located on lower elevation, highly productive land interspersed with streams and rivers.
A recent Washington State University study reveals that at least 30 percent of family forestland has fish-bearing streams occurring on them. Small forest landowners are also held responsible for maintaining the health and public benefits of thousands of miles of fish and non-fish bearing streams and rivers across the state.
Approximately 6,500 miles of roads with many thousands of stream and river crossings are located on family forestland. Recent rule changes require significant forest road improvements and, more importantly, culvert upgrades where roads cross water bodies.
The University of Washington estimates it will cost more than $375 million for family forest owners to upgrade their roads to current standards. The replacement of an estimated 8,500 culverts on those same roads will cost nearly $300 million of the projected $375 million. State Forests and Fish rules require these improvements to be even-flowed over a 15-year period. This will require an expenditure of more than $25 million annually in pre-inflation dollars.
Private investment for public benefits
Forest landowners are faced with privately financing improvements to their forest roads even though the improvements only benefit public resources, such as clean water and fish habitat. Despite the cash outlay, private landowners cannot expect any financial return on their investment. This extensive investment in the public good may further erode the economic viability of family forestry. The cost may also prevent the improvements from being made until the 15-year limit approaches.
Family forest owners need technical assistance to prepare their RMAPs and cost-share assistance to help pay for required roadwork and culvert replacements. No federal or state funds currently exist to pay for professional engineering to prepare plans or to help landowners pay for required roadwork. In addition, what little cost-share money is available for family forests cannot be used for these purposes as federal regulations prevent cost-share money being used to achieve compliance with requirements imposed by law.
In many cases, this means that critical fish blockages will not be removed for several more years, or that heavy expenditures will be required when there is no offsetting revenue.
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. As these obligations are a direct outgrowth of the Endangered Species Act, the federal government should help family forest owners meet their RMAP obligations. When private landowners invest in road improvements, the general public benefits, even though the landowner gains nothing in return.
Federal assistance should be made available to help family forest owners do road maintenance planning and design and to pay for road upgrades and the replacement of fish-blocking culverts. Federal cost-share rules must be modified to acknowledge the role that regulatory requirements play in endangered species conservation and to support landowners attempting to comply with these regulations.
Forest land means all land which is capable of supporting a merchantable stand of timber and is not being actively used for a use which is incompatible with timber growing. (WAC 222-16-010)
Forest practice is defined as any activity conducted on or directly pertaining to forest land and relating to growing, harvesting, or processing timber, including but not limited to: Road and trail construction; Harvesting, final and intermediate; Precommercial thinning; Reforestation; Fertilization; Prevention and suppression of diseases and insects; Salvage of trees; and Brush control. (WAC 222-16-010)
Forest road means ways, lanes, roads, or driveways on forest land used since 1974 for forest practices or forest management activities such as fire control. (WAC 222-16-010)
Merchantable stand of timber means a stand of trees that will yield logs and or fiber: Suitable in size and quality for the production of lumber, plywood, pulp or other forest products; Of sufficient value at least to cover all the costs of harvest and transportation to available markets. (WAC 222-16-010
Orphan road is a road or railroad grade that the forest landowner has not used for forest practices activities since 1974. (RMAP Guidance Form, DNR)
Public resources means water, fish, and wildlife and in addition shall mean capital improvements of the state or its political subdivisions. (WAC 222-16-010)
Road abandonment means all activities that result in the stabilization of roads to a more natural state of self-maintenance. A road is considered to be abandoned once the department has determined that the following conditions have been met.
(a) Roads are outsloped, water barred, or otherwise left in a condition suitable to control erosion and maintain water movement within wetlands and natural drainages.
(b) Ditches are left in a suitable condition to reduce erosion.
(c) The road is blocked so that four-wheel highway vehicles cannot pass the point of closure at the time of abandonment.
(d) Water crossing structures and fills on all typed waters are removed, except where the department determines other measures would provide adequate protection to public resources. (RMAP Guidance Form, DNR)
Typed water means seasonal and year-round flowing streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, nonforested wetlands, or bodies of salt water. (RMAP Guidance Form, DNR)
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The Washington Farm Bureau will hold a series of informational meetings on the Department of Natural Resources' Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan regulations. Meetings dates are listed below. Locations will be added as arrangements are completed.
May 23 - Montesano -- City Hall, 112 N. Main (6:30-8:30 p.m.)
June 3 - Dayton -- Star Steak & Seafood Restaurant, 525 W. Main St. (7-9 p.m.)
June 5 - Spokane -- DoubleTree Inn Downtown (next to the Convention Center). (7-9 p.m.)
June 10 - Bremerton -- Presidents Hall, Kitsap County Fairgrounds, 1200 Fairgrounds Road. (6:30-8:30 p.m.)
June 11 - Mount Vernon -- Cotton Tree Inn, 2300 Market St. (6:30-8:30 p.m.)
June 12 - Ellensburg -- Hal Holmes Community Center, 201 N. Ruby St. (7-9 p.m.)
June 13 - Goldendale -- Goldendale Grange (corner of Darland & Wilbur (7-9 p.m.)
To receive updates on RMAP by e-mail, send request to RMAP@wsfb.com.
The Idaho Observer
P.O. Box 457
Spirit Lake, Idaho 83869