access Weyerhaeuser private property from August 1st – December 31st in those areas must now purchase a permit. Weyerhaeuser allocated the public 650 permits for the 118,000-acre Pe Ell area and 750 for the 155,000-acre Vail area, but they sold out on the first day of sales, August 1st. The permits were sold at the prices of $150 for Vail and $200 for Pe Ell. Six leases for recreational access for the entire year were also put up to bid.
Weyerhaeuser has owned and managed land in the Pacific Northwest for over 100 years, owning 1,022,000 acres in Washington today.
According to company media spokesperson Anthony Chavez, Weyerhaeuser resorted to property policy changes because vandalism, dumping, and other illegal activities have increased significantly in the past years. While local Weyerhaeuser land has historically been open to the public, the company’s property in other areas, such as at the Snoqualmie and White River tree farms, has been restricted at different periods in time. The company has successfully implemented similar fee access programs in other areas of the state, including the southeastern timberland. Other private landowners and timber companies have also done the same. While a permit is required to access the land from August – December, they will not be required any other time of the year, Chavez assured.
Chavez stated that the company predicts the program will reduce property damages and at the same time protect the environment and offer visitors quality, safe outdoor experiences. The company would like to keep private lands open for public access, but it’s become increasingly costly and dangerous, Chavez explained.
While areas in Pe Ell and Vail are only accessible with permits, 56,000 acres in the Doty and Coyote Crest areas will be left open and will not require a permit. Similarly, the Raymond, Aberdeen, and Long View properties will be left open to public use for the time being. Chavez stated that the company plans to evaluate the program and make decisions for the future based on its success. “We appreciate that folks enjoy accessing the property and for that reason we want to keep our lands open, but the same time we have to have a balance to offset some of the increased vandalism and damages that have been done to our property,” Chavez said. The company hopes to offer a better experience for those who do purchase permits and access the property.
Although the property policy changes will affect hunting opportunities in the area, one local hunter reacted without much surprise to the changes: “Every timber company is going this route.” He gave the example of Rayonier Timberlands, which has been charging fees for years to access their property and raised the price this year to $375 for a permit to access approximately 31,000 acres.
“It’s going to affect people quite a bit, by the way that people have their historical or favorite hunting places. So it’s going basically lock them out. I don’t know how it’s going to play out. I bought one to see if it’s going to be worth it in the future,” the hunter continued. “From my point of view, I’m all for the quality experience. What I mean by that is maybe a few less hunters and a few more animals but I don’t know if this will create that or not. It’s all new, it’s a changing the world; things aren’t going to be the same as they have been. ”