Small forest landowners own approximately 3.2 million acres of Washington’s forests — about half the private forest land in the state. These lands are covered with thousands of miles of forest roads, all of which require maintenance. Roads can be one of a landowner’s most expensive investments, and neglecting regular maintenance can lead to long-term problems and costly repairs. Neglected roads can also have a negative impact on public resources such as water quality and fish habitat when sediment from the road degrades water quality and smothers fish eggs. The additional sediment from the road also can block or damage stream crossings, which prevents fish from reaching upstream habitat. Washington State’s forest practices rules address these issues by defining road maintenance requirements to minimize effects to water quality and fish habitat.
This month we begin a new feature on road maintenance requirements and programs to help you meet your obligations. We start with the basics:
The 1999 Salmon Recovery Act required all forest roads be brought up to new forest road standards as outlined in the Forests and Fish Report. To ensure that the road standards are met, the legislature established the Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan (RMAP) process. The forest practices rules procedures direct small forest landowners to complete and submit a checklist RMAP for all Forest Practices Applications (FPA). The checklist is only completed for those roads that will be used for the harvest specified in the FPA. CORRECTION (1/24/2015): Landowners who own a total of 80 acres or less of forest land in Washington state are exempt from submitting a checklist RMAP for individual parcels of 20 acres or less.
Checklist RMAP requirements apply to landowners who own 80 acres or less of forest land in Washington state and when the FPA is for a parcel containing 20 acres or less of forest land. Landowners are exempted from continuing checklist RMAP obligations after a property is sold.
The legislature, to address the unintended disproportionate financial hardships on small forest landowners, created a cost-share program to provide financial assistance to small forest landowners for the removal of fish blockages. This program, the Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP), shifted most of the financial burden from the landowner to the state of Washington and requires:
- The state to provide 75 to 100 percent of the cost of correcting small forest landowners’ fish barriers.
- Barriers be prioritized and removed on a “worst-first” basis.
- Once the small forest landowner was enrolled in the program, they would only be required to fix their barriers when and if financial assistance was available from the state.
Together, the checklist RMAP and FFFPP created the framework to bring small forest landowner roads up to the standard of the Forest Practices Rules. However, the simplicity of the checklist RMAP creates reporting challenges related to the extent of roads on small forest lands, their condition and the status of required upgrades.
To address this, DNR has initiated a statewide Small Forest Landowner Forest Road Assessment Project. Staff are available to help small forest landowners review their road system, and provide information on road maintenance standards and financial assistance options for needed repairs.
For more information about the Small Forest Landowner Forest Road Assessment Project, please read Boyd Norton’s article titled “Simplified Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plan Goals” in this edition of the SFL News.
Next Month: Roads and Forest Ecology