(1)(a) If any owner of forest land within a forest protection zone neglects or fails to provide adequate fire protection as required by RCW 76.04.600
, the department shall provide such protection and shall annually impose the following assessments on each parcel of such land: (i) A flat fee assessment of seventeen dollars and fifty cents; and (ii) twenty-seven cents on each acre exceeding fifty acres.
(b) Assessors may, at their option, collect the assessment on tax exempt lands. If the assessor elects not to collect the assessment, the department may bill the landowner directly.
(2) An owner who has paid assessments on two or more parcels, each containing fewer than fifty acres and each within the same county, may obtain the following refund:
(a) If all the parcels together contain less than fifty acres, then the refund is equal to the flat fee assessments paid, reduced by the total of (i) seventeen dollars and (ii) the total of the amounts retained by the county from such assessments under subsection (5) of this section.
(b) If all the parcels together contain fifty or more acres, then the refund is equal to the flat fee assessments paid, reduced by the total of (i) seventeen dollars, (ii) twenty-seven cents for each acre exceeding fifty acres, and (iii) the total of the amounts retained by the county from such assessments under subsection (5) of this section.
Applications for refunds shall be submitted to the department on a form prescribed by the department and in the same year in which the assessments were paid. The department may not provide refunds to applicants who do not provide verification that all assessments and property taxes on the property have been paid. Applications may be made by mail.
In addition to the procedures under this subsection, property owners with multiple parcels in a single county who qualify for a refund under this section may apply to the department on an application listing all the parcels owned in order to have the assessment computed on all parcels but billed to a single parcel. Property owners with the following number of parcels may apply to the department in the year indicated:
Number of Parcels
10 or more parcels
8 or more parcels
2004 and thereafter
6 or more parcels
The department must compute the correct assessment and allocate one parcel in the county to use to collect the assessment. The county must then bill the forest fire protection assessment on that one allocated identified parcel. The landowner is responsible for notifying the department of any changes in parcel ownership.
(3) Beginning January 1, 1991, under the administration and at the discretion of the department up to two hundred thousand dollars per year of this assessment shall be used in support of those rural fire districts assisting the department in fire protection services on forest lands.
(4) For the purpose of this chapter, the department may divide the forest lands of the state, or any part thereof, into districts, for fire protection and assessment purposes, may classify lands according to the character of timber prevailing, and the fire hazard existing, and place unprotected lands under the administration of the proper district. Amounts paid or contracted to be paid by the department for protection of forest lands from funds at its disposal shall be a lien upon the property protected, unless reimbursed by the owner within ten days after October 1st of the year in which they were incurred. The department shall be prepared to make statement thereof, upon request, to a forest owner whose own protection has not been previously approved as to its adequacy, the department shall report the same to the assessor of the county in which the property is situated. The assessor shall extend the amounts upon the tax rolls covering the property, and upon authorization from the department shall levy the forest protection assessment against the amounts of unimproved land as shown in each ownership on the county assessor's records. The assessor may then segregate on the records to provide that the improved land and improvements thereon carry the millage levy designed to support the rural fire protection districts as provided for in RCW 52.16.170
(5) The amounts assessed shall be collected at the time, in the same manner, by the same procedure, and with the same penalties attached that general state and county taxes on the same property are collected, except that errors in assessments may be corrected at any time by the department certifying them to the treasurer of the county in which the land involved is situated. Assessments shall be known and designated as assessments of the year in which the amounts became reimbursable. Upon the collection of assessments the county treasurer shall place fifty cents of the total assessments paid on a parcel for fire protection into the county current expense fund to defray the costs of listing, billing, and collecting these assessments. The treasurer shall then transmit the balance to the department. Collections shall be applied against expenses incurred in carrying out the provisions of this section, including necessary and reasonable administrative costs incurred by the department in the enforcement of these provisions. The department may also expend sums collected from owners of forest lands or received from any other source for necessary administrative costs in connection with the enforcement of RCW 76.04.660
(6) When land against which forest protection assessments are outstanding is acquired for delinquent taxes and sold at public auction, the state shall have a prior lien on the proceeds of sale over and above the amount necessary to satisfy the county's delinquent tax judgment. The county treasurer, in case the proceeds of sale exceed the amount of the delinquent tax judgment, shall immediately remit to the department the amount of the outstanding forest protection assessments.
(7) All nonfederal public bodies owning or administering forest land included in a forest protection zone shall pay the forest protection assessments provided in this section and the special forest fire suppression account assessments under RCW 76.04.630
. The forest protection assessments and special forest fire suppression account assessments shall be payable by nonfederal public bodies from available funds within thirty days following receipt of the written notice from the department which is given after October 1st of the year in which the protection was provided. Unpaid assessments are not a lien against the nonfederal publicly owned land but shall constitute a debt by the nonfederal public body to the department and are subject to interest charges at the legal rate. During the 2011-2013 fiscal biennium, the forest fire protection assessment account may be appropriated to The Evergreen State College for analysis and recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the state's mechanisms for funding fire prevention and suppression activities.
(8) A public body, having failed to previously pay the forest protection assessments required of it by this section, which fails to suppress a fire on or originating from forest lands owned or administered by it, is liable for the costs of suppression incurred by the department or its agent and is not entitled to reimbursement of costs incurred by the public body in the suppression activities.
(9) The department may adopt rules to implement this section, including, but not limited to, rules on levying and collecting forest protection assessments.
Effective date—2012 2nd sp.s. c 7:
See note following RCW 2.68.020
Effective date—1993 c 36:
"This act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, and shall take effect immediately [April 15, 1993]." [ 1993 c 36 § 3.