Local timber companies have begun to restrict access to their lands. For example, Hancock as a matter of policy keeps gates locked and denies vehicle access while Weyerhaeuser is proposing entry fees and Rayonier has already implemented them.
These actions are inconsistent with past policy of only restricting public entry for active timber operations and for times of high fire danger. Weyerhaeuser, for one, followed this policy for well over half a century.
To the extent that interpretation of existing tax codes allows, we should encourage our commissioners to consider revising land classifications to reduce or eliminate the favorable tax treatment for tree farms that follow these restrictive practices. In addition our legislators should consider reducing or eliminating tree farm tax benefits for companies that follow general restricted access policies.
A much better solution would be for the timber companies to voluntarily end their restricted access and fee access policies. The benefits of these policies may not be worth the loss of good will and the possible loss of favorable tax treatment.