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Shelton Mason County Journal
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Mason County Journal
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August 28, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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August 28, 2014

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Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 - Mason County Journal - Page A-15 Meeting candidates Terri Jeffreys, left, and Tammey Newton share a laugh at the Hot Dogs and Candidates event Friday at Kneeland Park in Shelton. The event was hosted by the Mason County Democrats and the Mason County Women Democrats. Jeffreys, a Mason County commissioner, is running as an independent against another independent, Dean Byrd, for a four-year term on the board. Newton, a Democrat, is facing incumbent Republican Drew MacEwen for 35th Legislative District representative for position 2. Journal photo by Gordon Weeks in forestland pay harvest continued from page A- 1 Grays Harbor County chal- lenged that trend last month when its county commission approved an ordinance prohib- iting the permits on Designat- ed Forest Lands. Could Mason County follow its lead? "We are actually watching that," said Patti Case, pub- lic affairs manager for Green Diamond's Northwest Timber- lands Division. Mason County-based Green Diamond, Rayonier Washing- ton Timber Company, Wey- erhaeuser Company and the Washington Forest Protec- tion Association (WFPA) filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in Thurston County on Aug. 6 asking a judge to declare portions of the Grays Harbor ordinance invalid. Case said Green Diamond has seen no indication that an- other county will adopt a simi- lar ordinance. The Mason County As- sessor's Office's Current Use Program, allowed under RCW 84.34, simliar to the Desig- nated Forest Land, allows for reduced tax assessments for properties such as farms, tim- berland and open space. Mason County Commission- er Randy Neatherlin said he thinks land assessed under the county's open-space designation should allow free public access. "They either need to have it open to the public, or we need to forgo that benefit on that property," he said. Green Diamond, Weyer- haeuser and Rayonier, among other Washington timber land- owners, require access permits for portions of their land. The WFPA includes more than 50 members, all private forest landowners in Washington. Green Diamond's Recre- ation Access Permit program, which started Jan. 1, requires outdoor enthusiasts to pur- chase a $75 to $250 permit each year to access about 23,000 acres of timberland owned by the company. Before the program, people could hike, hunt, ride all-ter- rain vehicles and do other ac- tivities on much of Green Dia- mond's land for free. On July 7, the Grays Har- bor County Commission chal- lenged the practice by adopt- ing an ordinance that prohib- its large timberland owners in the state's Designated Forest Land program from charging the recreation fees for access to their land. "We did not anticipate this," Case said. Companies in the forest- land program pay no property tax for their land but do pay an excise tax when the tim- ber is harvested. According to RCW 84.33, the county in which the timber is harvested r~eei~-=s 80 percent of the tax. land is removed from ~gnated Forest Land 1, the owner is re- to pay back taxes for a maximum of 10 years. This year, the state Legisla- ture allowed counties to merge their Current Use Programs with the Designated Forest Land programs, said Mason County Assessor Melody Peterson. Peterson said the current use program, RCW 84.34, allows counties to require public ac- cess, but the designated forest land program, RCW 84.33, does not explicitly grant that right. "We haven't made a de- termination (about) what we would do if (the ordinance) goes forward," Case said. The Grays Harbor ordi- nance states that charging access fees for recreation on Designated Forest Land prop- erties is not allowed under the RCW. However, the lawsuit filed by the timber groups states that the RCW does not prohib- it such fees. "I think it will be very in- structive to see what comes out of this court case," said Mason County Commissioner Terri Jeffr, Maso-, sioner "'~T thin]-, , and lay ,] HaJ A( ,, COUD.. minut in favor .. ' unty Commis- heldon said he :ounties will wait mppens with the following Grays to Grays Harbor mission meeting ae people spoke ae ordinance and four spoke against it before the commissioners approved the ordinance. Companies that charge the fees, violating the terms of Gray's Harbor's ordinance, are in danger of being removed from the county's Designated Forest Land program. Grays Harbor County Com- mission Chair Frank Gordon did not return a request for comment. According to meeting min- utes, the commission spe- cifically chose to allow berry, mushroom and floral salal picking as allowed commercial uses under the program. At the Grays Harbor meet- ing, two commissioners ex- pressed concern that the vote could lead to lawsuits. Gordon said a Road T evy Shift might be necessary to pay for coun- ty legal fees in the event of a court fght, according to meet- ing minutes. Most of Green Diamond's pay-to-access land is in Ma- son County, near Cloqual- lum Road and Goldsborough Creek, but some is in Grays Harbor County and would be affected by the ordinance, Case said. "It's allowed us to improve our security," Case said. "We have some areas where we still allow free access and this area where we're charging provides sort of an exclusive recreation- al experience for a small num- ber." Case said feedback on the program has been mostly posi- tive. This week, Green Dia- mond announced plans to ex- pand the program. The expansion will add 35,000 acres to the company's pay to access land. Grain-fed, Bone-in Rib Eye Steak All Natural Chicken Leg Quarlers Lb. All Natural, Bone-in St. Louis Pork Ribs Ocencau JI Alaska Tru Cod I :littil ;]i Ill T--~T~ T ~ ........... Vr-