Common Sense Breaks Out in Grays Harbor: “Film at Eleven”

cropped-lady-liberty-and-sunset.jpgEvery once in awhile a ray of sunshine or two sloshes over Grays Harbor, Washington.  There’s even an outbreak of common sense here and there.  This was the case at yesterday’s county commission meeting, where commissioners Wes Cormier (R), Herb Welch (R) and Frank Gordon (D) adopted an ordinance that prohibits forest landowners from receiving a property tax break if they charge hunters and others a fee to access the land for recreation purposes.

According to The Vidette, the ordinance “aimed at taking on Weyerhauser and other large timber companies who have been charging hunters and others to access their private land for recreation purposes.” The vote to approve was unanimous.

Continues The Vidette:

The only tweak in the original ordinance came from an amendment offered by sponsor Commissioner Wes Cormier, providing an exemption for small forest landowners, who has harvested from his or her land in this state no more than an average timber volume of 2 million board feet per year. Timber companies will also still be allowed to charge for berry picking, mushroom picking and floral salal picking. The previous ordinance would have eliminated those incidental uses.

“All this is, this is a disagreement with the conditions of the property.  … It’s not a property rights taking,” explained Commissioner Cormier, who introduced the ordinance last month. “We can’t force a property owner to allow access or prohibit access. That’s out of our hands. What this (ordinance) does is… qualify the conditions.”

Commissioner Welch expressed concern about the cost of potential litigation, but added that the ordinance could be repealed later if necessary. “We can back off,” Welch said, “but unless we put it (the ordinance) into effect, we’re not going to know what happens next.” On the question of land usage, Welch said, “… As far as I’m concerned, they’re locking (the land) up now.”

“I’m really torn” said Commissioner Gordon, who echoed Welch’s concerns regarding potential legal costs in the event of a court fight. Gordon voted Yes “very unhappily,” saying he hopes his Yes vote “would bring Weyerhauser and Rayonier to the table.” He said, “Property rights (are) a big important thing to me.”

Cormier thanked Grays Harbor resident Dan Boeholt and State Rep. Brian Blake as well as his fellow commissioners for their help in getting the ordinance passed.

Here’s the video:

Weyerhaeuser’s decision to begin a large-scale access permit system this year  stirred up a hornet’s nest, pitting property rights proponents against sportsmen, hunters, and outdoor enthusiasts.

A Facebook group opposing the access fees, Sportsmen Not Buying Weyerhauser Permits, has gained more than 1,400 members. The group describes itself as “Washington fisherman and hunters (who are) not purchasing permits to be on Weyco lands. Permits range from $75 to $250. Take a stand, don’t purchase a permit. ”

As for that ray of sunshine? It starts pouring out of the sky when citizens stop standing idly by wringing their hands, and choose to get involved in their local government.

Now if I can just remember where I stashed the sun screen.

Read more here.