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 November 11, Green Diamond (AKA Simpson) rolled out a new, “Recreation Access Permit Program”. Starting January 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.
And what amenities do these fees buy? According to Green Diamond’s press release, “A higher quality recreation experience for a smaller number of users.” Great, less access to recreational opportunities for people who can least afford it. What’s wrong with this picture?
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 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% of market value. As a result, taxes on Green Diamond lands account for less than $300,000 of the $73.5M in property taxes enjoyed by the rest of us.
So, how is it a company that owns nearly 20% of the land in Mason County and pays less than 4% of the property taxes thinks it’s okay to charge people to walk or ride on their property? The short answer is, because they can.
Not to stray too far off topic, but the sooner Mason County lets go of the old relationship it had with the Simpson Lumber Company the sooner it will wake up to the new relationship it has with Green Diamond. And rezoning, the selling of development rights, and now, requiring people to purchase permits to access their lands is only the beginning.
Let’s face it, this is not your father’s timber company.
Tom Davis, Shelton, WA