Dan Boeholt recently wrote a letter to the editor that I felt was short-sighted and misguided.
In essence Boeholt’s idea was not bad. He would like to see timber companies open their lands to hunting, something they have traditionally done, but no longer do or charge fees for. He wants “forest land” tax rates removed if they charge fees, and change the tax status to a higher rate as a recreational designation.
Given an option of losing a lower tax rate or closing limited access, that choice is easy. You close the property and nobody gets in.
The problem across the board is timber companies can’t afford people on their property. By opening the gates, they open a Pandora’s Box. Garbage is the first issue that comes to mind. Open logging roads become dump sites and who is responsible for it? It is hazardous waste, both for pickup and disposal. There was no plan for addressing that, and it is an issue on any open road. Look at Longren Pass in Hoquiam.
Next is the issue of theft and vandalism. Many of the road restrictions started years ago with vandalism of logging equipment, during the hunting season. The unanswered question was, how do you stop that, and protect these investments?
Finally there is the liability issue for timber companies. People who are injured on the property of timberland owners could sue the property owners. With primitive roads and that kind of potential liability, you would have to be insane to even consider opening lands to public access.
As former County Commissioner Terry Willis pointed out during the meeting when Mr. Boeholt made his presentation, this is a “slippery slope” to start legislating in. Pretty soon other land owners can be forced to open up their property to hunting, for example, farms and ranches which also enjoy tax advantages. It doesn’t have to end there, with virtually any private property becoming subject to hunting, regardless of an owner’s wishes.
If lands have to be opened to public hunting, we should start looking to the national parks, national forests, state lands and local watersheds. For that matter even areas of city limits with animal populations could be opened up for certain types of hunting. This is all publicly owned land and the government already collects fees to hunt and the tags for the animals. Now make it public lands that are hunted, with the state assuming responsibility for the hunters they license.
Private lands need to remain private.