Restricted forest access not OK with tax breaks

SheltonNovember 24, 2013 

Ah, Green Diamond, the very words conjure up a vision of unfettered access to thickly treed forests, abundant wildlife and graveled logging roads just begging to be hiked. But there’s another side to this bucolic setting, one of locked gates, costly permits and privileged entrance; and that is the road our largest tree farmer has chosen to travel.

On Nov.11, Green Diamond (AKA Simpson) rolled out a new,“Recreation Access Permit Program.” Starting Jan. 1, hunters, hikers, horse riders and people in motorized vehicles will have to pony up between $75 and $250 for an annual permit that allows them access to 23,000 acres of Green Diamond land in the Cloquallum/Goldsborough area.

It bears mentioning that Simpson/Green Diamond assets measure in the billions of dollars, including 187,000 acres of designated forest land in Mason County, 330,000 acres elsewhere in Washington state and 400,000 acres in Northern California.

Due to some very generous legislation, property taxes on timberlands in Washington are assessed at less than 10 percent of market value. As a result, taxes on Green Diamond lands account for less than $300,000 of the $73.5 million in property taxes enjoyed by the rest of us. So, how is it a company that owns nearly 20 percent of the land in Mason County and pays less than 4 percent of the property taxes thinks it’s OK to charge people to walk or ride on their property?

The short answer is, because they can. Let’s face it, this is not your father’s timber company.

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