Outlook: Partly cloudy, future uncertain
Around 525 acres were removed from the forest and timber land inventory each year between 2000 and 2014. The decrease in land was highest between 2005 and 2010.
Forest and timber lands in Thurston County provide both ecological benefits and economic opportunities. Studies show that basins with more than 65% canopy cover tend to have intact stream heath. In addition, forestry is an important aspect of Thurston County’s history and economic base.
What are we measuring?
Acres of forest and timber lands in rural Thurston County.
TRPC's rural forest and timber land inventory monitors changes in forest and timber lands that provide both economic and ecological benefits to Thurston County. In general, it includes tax parcels outside of the cities, urban growth areas (UGAs), tribal reservations, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) that are identified as timber lands (lands that produce an income from timber), or contain at least 5 acres of forest cover and are not in residential usages (generally 9 acres lots or smaller), set aside for parks, or set aside for future school sites.
Included in the inventory are:
Public timber lands: For the most part, these are lands managed by the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources.
Between 2000 and 2014, around 2,500 acres of public forest lands were sold by the Department of Natural Resources to other government entities (such as school districts) or private timber companies. This does not include any transfers of land on JBLM. Some of the land sold to private timber companies was subsequently subdivided and developed.
Private timber lands: Includes lands that are enrolled in the state’s Open Space Tax Program as timber lands, or designated as forest lands by Thurston County’s Assessor. Once lands are identified as private timber lands in the forest land inventory they remain in the inventory (regardless of their enrollment status in the Open Space Tax Program) until their land use status changes due to development or set asides for schools or parks.
There was a decrease of approximately 1,200 acres of public and private timber lands in Thurston County between 2000 and 2014. The transfer of public timber lands to private timber lands offset the loss in private timber lands.
Other forest lands: Includes lands identified as having more than 5 acres of forest lands and are more than 40 percent forested (not including forested wetlands), and are undeveloped or partially developed (larger parcels: 9 acres or larger with no more than one home and one mobile home).
Approximately 3,600 acres of other forest lands were removed from the forest land inventory between 2000 and 2014, in general due to rural residential development at around one home on a 9 acre or smaller lot.
The highest rate of forest land loss was during 2005 to 2010, when more than 910 acres were removed from the inventory annually, including a large decrease in the amount of public timber lands in Thurston County. As a comparison, a 2002 TRPC report estimated that between 1985 and 2000, around 1,240 acres of forested lands were developed annually.
Some steps the region can take to reduce the loss of forest and timber lands include:
Encouraging or requiring cluster subdivisions on forest lands (planned rural residential development code)
Expanding the “sending” areas identified in the purchase and transfer of development rights programs (PDR/TDR) to include forest lands
Expanding areas zoned as long-term forestry
Working with the cities to encourage urban growth, reducing the demand for rural growth