Access to Weyerhaeuser’s property around Longview won’t change for the upcoming hunting seasons, though the company is moving to a fee permit system to the north.
Weyerhaeuser has started a limited-entry permit system on its Vail Tree Farm in eastern Lewis and Thurston counties, and company lands near the west Lewis County town of Pe Ell.
On the 155,000-acre Vail Tree Farm, all motorized and non-motorized access will require a permit from Aug. 1 through Dec. 31. A maximum of 750 permits were available; all have been sold, according to the company’s website.
On 118,000 acres of Weyerhauser’s Pe Ell Tree Farm, 650 permits were offered for $200 each. As of Thursday, 19 permits were available.
An advantage for permit holders is that Weyco will allow them to camp out on its property, something that is no longer allowed on the St. Helens Tree Farm.
The company also accepted bids for leases for five parcels. High bidders get year-round exclusive recreational use of the lease area and expanded camping privileges, and ATV use is often allowed.
Company spokesman Anthony Chavez said that access to St. Helens Tree Farm, which includes much of the land between Kelso and Mount St. Helens, won’t change this year. The company owns 420,000 acres around Longview and Kelso.
The company allows non-motorized access to its Longview-area land except during times of high fire danger. During major hunting seasons, Weyerhaeuser opens many of its gates for daytime hunter access.
Chavez said the company will evaluate the success of the Vail and Pe Ell tree farm access policies before deciding whether to continue or expand them. “I don’t want to speculate” about whether the fee access program could be introduced on the St. Helens Tree Farm in the future, he said.
Chavez noted that access rules aren’t the same across Weyerhaeuser’s Washington tree farms.
“We want to keep our lands open to the general public, but it’s become increasingly challenging and costly in recent years,” Chavez said, citing vandalism and garbage dumping.
Chavez said going to a permit system allows the company to police those areas better.
“And it’s a chance to create an additional revenue stream that offsets the costs of keeping our lands open,” he said.
Chavez said there’s some confusion about the fact that Weyerhaeuser’s permits are valid for spouses, children and grandchildren in addition to the permit holder.
Rayonier, which also has a permit system for its Fossil Creek property in Pacific County, requires a separate permit for each hunter.
This year, the cost of Rayonier permits jumped to $375, and the company announced that children under 18 wouldn’t be granted permits. However, the company is re-evaluating its no-children policy; as of Thursday, permits were not available on its website.