OUTDOORS: Rayonier’s purchase of Pope timberlands could have negative impact on public land access

OUTDOOR RECREATION ENTHUSIASTS may soon need a new access permit to visit land previously accessible to the public.

Timber landholder Rayonier Inc.’s recent announcement of its intent to acquire 125,000 acres of timber owned by Pope Resources, which holds 46,500 acres of Jefferson County timberland, doesn’t bode well for those who enjoy outdoor recreation.

Rayonier owns a wide swath of timberlands on the West End — and charges fees to license holders who wish to enjoy hunting, fishing, camping and other forms of recreation on those lands.

Timber companies started closing their gates in recent decades because of problems with timber theft, vandalism, drug use and production and garbage dumping.

There was only one open license on Rayonier property in all of Washington state when I checked Wednesday afternoon — and for the price of $1,956, a 652-“recreational land unit” near Miller Creek in Jefferson County may be leased through May 31.

Non-hunting recreation permits also are available from Rayonier on a yearly and six-month basis for families and individuals.

Yearly family non-hunting recreation permits are $150, individual yearly permits are $90 and individual spring non-hunting permits are $45. These permits provide access to seasonal permit areas and all Green Dot and Red Dot gates.

Quilcene’s Ward Norden, a former fisheries biologist and owner of Snapper Tackle Co., explained why recreation enthusiasts should be worried about the timberland purchase.

“It is likely that Rayonier will charge extortionary fees to access some of the most popular lakes in Jefferson County just like the company did with Wentworth Lake near Forks and bank access to portions of the lower Bogachiel and the Calawah Rivers — one of my favorite accesses for less mobile anglers like me,” Norden said.

Jefferson County lakes popular with trout anglers all could be shielded from public access.

“The following popular lakes are either on Pope [now Rayonier] land or Pope [Rayonier] land must be crossed for access: Tarboo Lake, Sandy Shore Lake, Ludlow Lake and Horseshoe Lake,” Norden said.

“All receive large plants of trout from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, including jumbo rainbows in the spring, which will likely have to be discontinued just like what happened with Wentworth Lake.”

Let’s hope cooler heads prevail in eastern Jefferson County and the same level of public access available under Pope Resources remains with Rayonier in control.

For more information on Rayonier’s permit options in Washington, visit www.property.rayonierhunting.com.

Recent plants

None of those Jefferson County lakes listed above received trout plants during a string of New Year’s fish plants for year-round lakes conducted Jan. 2.

Teal Lake near Port Ludlow received a plant of 75 cutthroat trout; Lake Leland was planted with 208 cutthroat and Gibbs Lake received 75 cutthroat.

These are larger plants, with fish averaging about 1 to 1 ½-pounds, and they were raised at the Eells State Trout Hatchery in Shelton.

Razor digs continue

Razor clam digs continue through Sunday at ocean beaches.

• Today: 5:53 p.m. -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks.

• Friday: 6:32 p.m. -0.6 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis.

• Saturday, Jan. 25: 7:08 p.m. -0.5 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks.

• Sunday, Jan. 26: 7:42 p.m. -0.3 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis.

Under state law, diggers at open beaches can take 15 razor clams per day and are required to keep the first 15 they dig.

Duckabush Estuary

Public review and comment is sought on a draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed 38-acre restoration project on the Duckabush River estuary in Jefferson County.

Comments can be provided online or by mail until Feb. 20.

People can learn about the project’s environmental impacts and provide written or oral comments at a public open house on Feb. 8 from 10 a.m. to noon at Brinnon School, 46 Schoolhouse Road, in Brinnon.

Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, is proposing a project that would reconnect the Duckabush River to neighboring floodplains and wetlands.

The project would remove fill, modify local roads and elevate U.S. Highway 101 onto a bridge spanning the area where freshwater from the Duckabush River meets saltwater of Hood Canal.

The state said “the Duckabush River estuary is impacted by fill, dikes and road infrastructure which blocks water channels and limits critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including endangered salmon species.”

More information on the project is available at wdfw.wa.gov/duckabush.

Written comments can be mailed to:

Lisa Wood, SEPA/NEPA Coordinator WDFW Habitat Program, Protection Division P.O. Box 43200 Olympia, WA 98504-3200.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected].

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