With a unanimous “Yes” vote by the Grays Harbor County Commissioners on an ordinance that terminates the Current Use Timber Land (CUTL) program and will essentially prohibit timber companies from charging recreational fees for access, big wheels have been set in motion. This issue has been a HOT topic over the last couple months where people found themselves on either the side of the fence defending property rights, or the side of the fence defending a way of life. Weyerhaeuser’s decision to begin a large-scale access permit system this year created quite a stir among the outdoor community. This issue is split with two groups of people standing on opposite sides of the fence. In my opinion, there is Weyerhaeuser and timber companies, standing one side telling us Sportsmen how it is going to be. I applaud the Sportsmen standing on the other side of the fence who have made it loud and clear that we are not willing to just let them tell us how it is going to be and that we are willing to fight for something we believe so strongly in. With that said, we are all looking for a reasonable solution. In my opinion, we aren’t going to get away with no fees. But in reality, I’m ok with that as long as it is reasonable and there is actual value to that fee. What we all have to remember is that each side is going to have to give up something and compromise in order for the fence to come down and restore the system. Let’s not be ignorant in thinking we can just be so one-sided and ignore the needs of the other side of the fence. I hope that this Yes vote starts a dialogue between the right groups of people and we can begin to develop a system that we can all settle on.
The unanimous vote came as a surprise to me, and to a lot of other people who attended the meeting. I have been hearing things through the grapevine and believed that minds were made up prior to this meeting. I personally was for the ordinance, not necessarily because I think it is the best solution to the problem, but because it is a step in a different direction than what Weyerhaeuser was forcing us to go down. I am in full support of property rights and do agree that landowners have rights to do as they please within the law. But we aren’t talking about your everyday landowner here. Your talking about a company who owns over a million acres in western WA and houses countless Washington State managed resources on that acreage.
So what happens next? There is all kinds of thoughts on how Weyerheauser is going to react. Most think that they are going to just shut down access entirely, and yes they could do that if they wanted. But what is the difference between that and what we are looking at now. Personally, as someone who didn’t but an access permit wasn’t going to have access to their lands anyway, so whats the difference. They are going to have a huge increase in damage to their crops with game animals not being properly managed on their properties. In my opinion, the State is going to have to get involved at some point. Tax payers pay for the State to manage game animals and here in western WA and OR, most of those game animals reside in timberlands. Seasons, special permits, and population management decisions are based on the amount of days hunted in a given area, how many animals were harvested in a certain area, etc. When Weyerheauser begins limiting access or shutting it off completely, there is no way for the State to properly manage those game animals. That is my personal opinion, but I can’t see how its not true.
We will all just have to wait and see how this all plays out, but one thing for sure is that it is going to get interesting. I will say it again, I am Proud of all of those willing to make your voices heard when something affects you so much and you are so passionate about it. Don’t stop now. Stay involved, and throw your ideas out there no matter how big or small and lets not go to war with each other, but settle this as a community. We in coastal WA and OR are timber communities, but as of now, aren’t on the greatest of terms with each other, but with respect and willingness to work together from both sides, I think we can come up with a solution.
Stay tuned to Get Outdoors as new information comes out on this issue.