Senate approves Sheldon orange-paint trespass bill

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA… A bill giving landowners a new way to mark their property against trespassing has cleared the state Senate, and its sponsor, state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said he hopes it fares better than last year.

Senate Bill 5233 gives property owners the right to dispense with the traditional no-trespassing signs, and instead mark their land with stripes of orange paint. The same approach works in other states, Sheldon says, and saves rural property owners big bucks. Yet during the last legislative session an identical bill, also sponsored by Sheldon, was vetoed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Sometimes it takes a while for a new idea to win acceptance,” he said. “But already this approach is being used in Oregon and Idaho, and it is working quite well.”

The bill says a painted vertical stripe of fluorescent orange paint is sufficient notice that a piece of property is off-limits. The stripe, at least 1 inch wide and 8 inches in height, would have to be visible to any person approaching the property, the bottom of the mark being between 3 feet and 5 feet above ground level. Orange paint marks would have to be painted no more than 100 feet apart on forest land, and no more than 1,000 feet apart on range land.

The basic idea is that orange paint marks might be made on tree trunks or fence posts, Sheldon said. “No-trespassing signs get torn down all the time, and it costs quite a bit to replace them – and there is always the cost of inspection,” he explained. “This is a concern in rural districts like mine, where landholdings might be dozens or even hundreds of acres. This sort of marking has the added benefit of being comprehensible in any language – orange means ‘stay out.’”

Last year the bill, advocated by farm and forestry interests, was passed by the House and Senate, only to be vetoed by the governor. The veto message said the governor felt a phase-in period was necessary, and that posting requirements on access roads were unclear. Sheldon said differences may easily be worked out later in session. This year’s measure passed the Senate 29-20 and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee Monday.