No one should blame the managers of SDS Lumber CO. and Broughton Lumber Co. for their recent decision to close off their timberlands to the public.
Because of a series of destructive acts -- some deliberate, some just careless -- SDS and Broughton lands, at least in Skamania County, will now be open only to those who get a written permit from the property owners in advance.
We support the new policy, and urge those who live near the affected lands others to keep an eye out to help SDS and Broughton protect their property.
It's a shame the new policy has become necessary, because many responsible users -- hunters, hikers, mountain bikers, riders on horseback -- are unfairly impacted by the actions of those few who seem to have little respect for another person's property. But the land owners cannot sit back and watch their resources be trashed.
The list of harmful activities taking place in the woods around towns such as Willard, Mill A, and Underwood is truly outrageous: people carving out their own motorcycle or biking trails on SDS/Broughton properties; illegally cutting down trees for firewood or other uses; dumping trash; vandalizing property and equipment; hunting out of season; and running off-road vehicles through meadows, streams, and other sensitive areas -- including driving through areas with newly-planted trees.
SDS and Broughton have seen enough, and they are going to be working with the Skamanai County Sheriff's Office to enforce the new restrictions. If you want to avoid being cited for criminal trespass, you'd better have a written permit before heading into those lands. And that's not too much to ask, under the circumstances.
It's too bad a few scofflaws have to spoil the unrestricted access the community has enjoyed over the years. SDS and Broughton have been very generous in allowing their lands to be open to the public, but no one should expect them to accept continuing damage and vandalism.