Land Use Policies in Walla Walla and Umatilla Counties
by Katie Songer
 

As we drive from Whitman College to the Johnston Wilderness Campus (JWC), we pass through beautiful farmland and into a forest.  At the state line the paved road becomes gravel, signaling passage from Washington to Oregon, from Walla Walla County to Umatilla County.  Though the line seems arbitrary, the quality of the road is not the only difference between one side and the other.  Policies regarding hunting, fishing, burning, logging, and building (to name a few uses) vary from state to state and county to county, as well.

The JWC lies just south of the boundary between Walla Walla and Umatilla Counties.  To the east of the Campus is the Mill Creek watershed, which is about 21,000 acres, and includes land in both Walla Walla and Umatilla Counties.  The watershed is a small part of Umatilla National Forest, which also sprawls across the state line and encompasses approximately 1.4 million acres.

Most practices within the national forest are regulated by the federal government.  Hunting, however, is regulated in the forest according to state laws.  Links to information on hunting permits and seasons can be found below.

Rules differ between the Mill Creek watershed and the rest of the national forest.  While hunting is regulated by the states of Oregon and Washington in the national forest, in the watershed it is regulated jointly by the federal and state governments and the City of Walla Walla.  Furthermore, no logging is allowed in the Mill Creek watershed.

The following resources are intended to help present and potential landowners in Walla Walla and Umatilla Counties, and especially along upper Mill Creek, to learn about land use policies that might pertain to them.

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Growth, Planning, Zoning

Walla Walla County
Which policies apply to a given property depend on which zone that property lies in, or how the property is “zoned” (residential, business, institutional, etc.).  Walla Walla County Regional Planning is in charge of zoning for the rural areas of that county.  For city zoning practices, city planning offices (such as Walla Walla City Planning) should be contacted.  In Umatilla National Forest, land is managed by the federal government.

One important aspect of planning is minimum lot size.  Partially to prevent urban sprawl, there are different minimum lot sizes inside and outside of city limits.  Within the city limits and within the urban growth area, lots may be smaller, and the density of buildings is greater.  Within city limits, the lot sizes also vary according to building type.  For information on zoning within Walla Walla city limits, Development Services should be contacted.

Development Services for the city of Walla Walla can be reached
by phone at (509) 527-4535,
by mail at
   PO Box 478
   Walla Walla, WA 99362
or in person at
   55 Moore St.
   Walla Walla, WA 99362

Although lot sizes are generally larger outside of cities, Walla Walla County Regional Planning cautions against making assumptions—most properties are handled on a case-by-case basis, and to find out the rules for any property, the best thing to do is to contact the planning office for the area.  Currently, most rural lot sizes within rural Walla Walla County fall between 5000 square feet and 120 acres (5,227,200 ft2).  Within the next year (2000), these numbers may change.

Walla Walla County Regional Planning does not have an Internet address.  They can be reached
by phone at (509) 527-3285,
or by mail or in person at
   310 SW Poplar No. 001
   Walla Walla, WA 99362

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Umatilla County
In Umatilla County, there are two main sizes for rural residences: two acres and four acres.  However, these numbers may be raised in the future—for example, Oregon’s state government might place stricter regulations on rural residences, making the minimum lot size five acres in rural areas.  For exclusive farm use, lot sizes are significantly higher: a minimum of 160 acres.  Urban lot sizes are regulated by cities and are generally significantly smaller than rural minimums.  Besides urban and rural residential zones, there are various other types as well: mountain residential, forest residential, light industrial, tourist commercial, etc.

Umatilla County Department of Resource Services and Development (Umatilla County Planning) can be reached
by phone at (541) 278-6252,
or by mail or in person at
   216 SE 4th St.
   Pendleton, OR 97801

Columbia County
Portions of the Walla Walla River drainage basin and of the Umatilla National Forest lie in Columbia County, which is situated just east of Walla Walla County.  Columbia County Planning also does not have an Internet site, but can be reached
by phone at (509) 382-4676, or
by mail or in person at
   114 S. 2nd St.
   Dayton, WA 99328

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Forest Practices

Most of Oregon and Washington operate under the Forest Practices Acts for the respective states.  However, the Umatilla National Forest operates under federal forestry practices.  The JWC is private land and thus falls under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Forest Practices Act.  No logging is allowed in the Mill Creek watershed, which lies upstream of the JWC.

Access the Oregon Department of Forestry web page for information on the Oregon Forest Practices Act.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources can be reached
by phone at (360) 902-1422, or
by mail at
   Department of Natural Resources Forest Practices Division
   PO Box 47012
   Olympia, WA 98504-7012
Access their web page for more information on forest practices.

(For slash or pile burning information, see Pollution below.)

Agricultural Practices

Walla Walla County
The Walla Walla County Farm Service Agency provides assistance to agricultural producers in Walla Walla County.  Most producers in this county grow wheat, barley, or oats; occasionally the agency deals with fruit and vegetable producers as well.  Umatilla County and Columbia County are covered by their respective Farm Service Agencies.

Walla Walla County Farm Service Agency can be reached
by phone at (509) 522-6340,
by mail or in person at
   1501 Business One Circle, Suite 100
   Walla Walla, WA 99362

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Umatilla County
Umatilla County Farm Service Agency can be reached
by phone at (541) 278-8049; or
by mail or in person at
   1229 SW Third Ave.
   Pendleton, OR 97801

Columbia County
Columbia County Farm Service Agency can be reached
by phone at (509) 382-2421; or
by mail or in person at
   202 S. 2nd St.
   Dayton, WA 99328-1327

(For field burning information, see Pollution below.)

Hunting & Fishing

Hunting is regulated by the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife.  While the forest is under national jurisdiction, the wildlife within the forest is also owned by the states of Oregon and Washington.  In the Mill Creek watershed, however, hunting is regulated by the federal government and the City of Walla Walla.

Hunting seasons vary across state lines and according to different animals and different areas.  The following is a brief table of hunting seasons in Oregon and Washington, not including fowl:

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Game
Washington
Oregon
deer and elk
rifle: Sept – Nov
rifle: Oct – Nov
 
box: Sept – Dec
box: Aug – Sept
black bear
Aug – Nov
Aug – Sept
cougar
Aug – March
Aug – March
bobcat, raccoon, fox
Sept – March
(not mentioned)
coyote
year round
(not mentioned)
rabbit & hare
Sept – March
(not mentioned)
pygmy rabbits
closed statewide
(not mentioned)
Visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for complete hunting and fishing regulations in Washington, or the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for Oregon hunting and fishing regulations.

Pollution

Residential and Field Burning
Walla Walla County Health Department covers residential and field burning in Walla Walla County.  Restrictions vary according to time of year, weather conditions, and time of day.  Among other restrictions, burning is never allowed with winds exceeding 20 miles per hour.  For residential burning outside of city limits, permits are $10/year; for farmers, agricultural burn permits are $20/year plus $1 per acre (as of 1 Jan. 2000).  Obtaining a permit involves visiting the burn control officer at Walla Walla County Regional Planning.  Permits are considerably more difficult to obtain for field burning than for residential burning.  Permits are granted on a case-by-case basis; the best way to find more information is to talk to a burn control officer.  Burning without a permit is penalized by tickets.

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Burning in Forests
Slash burning and pile burning are two common types of burning in forests.  The difference between the two is that when pile burning, the debris are gathered together in a pile.  Natural piles can be used as well.  The county burn control officer handles burning on forested land, both private and state-owned, outside of the national forests in Walla Walla and Columbia Counties.

In Umatilla National Forest, burning is handled by the national government.

The Walla Walla County burn control officer can be reached
by phone at (509) 527-3226,
or in person at
   310 W. Poplar
   Walla Walla, WA 99362.

Walla Walla County Burning (which handles forested areas) can be reached
by phone at (509) 925-0968,
or by mail or in person at
   Department of Natural Resources
   713 E. Bowers Rd.
   Ellensburg, WA 98926
 

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