Retention of High‐Valued Forest Lands at Risk of Conversion to Non‐Forest Uses in Washington State
NRSIG Budget: $97,552
Project Budget: $132,428
Sponsors: WA DNR
Timeline: July 2008 through June 2009
Partners: WA DNR, IFR


Ownership of the state’s 11.6 million acres of private forestland is split evenly among industrial and non-industrial owners. These private lands provide critical fish and wildlife habitat, especially in highly-productive lower elevation riparian areas. 

The forest products industry is a significant economic driver for communities in all regions of the state. Forest and paper industries represent 11% of all manufacturing jobs and play a particularly important role in rural, timber-dependent communities. However, population pressures, changing forest ownership patterns and the desire for rural housing sites are fragmenting once continuous forests into smaller tracts that are economically and environmentally unsustainable. Forest conversion will eliminate major opportunities to leverage forest carbon sequestration to address climate change and also negatively affect biodiversity, fisheries resources and open space.

Ensuring a stable land base for forestry requires that a reasonable economic expectation from forest management can be met. A successful state strategy to support the long-term future of working forests must (a) increase working forest values (by improving the product value of the timber resource and the value of non-timber resources) and (b) decrease alternative land use values by either compensating/incentivizing landowners for forgoing fragmentation or by containing urban sprawl to prevent fragmentation.

The 2007 Washington State Legislature directed the University of Washington College of Forest Resources (now School of Environmental and Forest Sciences) and its Northwest Environmental Forum to produce recommendations “for retaining the highest valued working forest lands at risk of conversion to non-forest uses”.

Our Work

In 2007 we developed the Washington State Forestland Database as a derivative product of the Washington State Parcel Database. The Forestland Databse took the 3 million parcels in the state, along with assesed land uses, tax status, and property values, and added additional forestry specific data including forest soil productivity, forest cover, riparian buffers, and distances to areas where forest products could be processed. On top of this information, we modeled the economics of maintaining parcels as managed forest, and compared those values to the current market value of the parcels.  Properties with a differential of greater than $2500/acre between forest production value and the value of other uses were deemed at “high risk” of converting to non-forest uses.  As of 2007, About 972,000 acres of private forestland in western Washington were threatened with conversion.


The Forestland Database and resulting analysis were key components of the October 2008 Northwest Environmental Forum.

Environmental Forum Major Findings & Proposals for 2009 Legislative Action


Project Final Report

Legacy Project Page (