State Forest Replacement Program
Many acres of State Forest trust lands in small rural timber-dependent counties currently cannot be harvested due to habitat protections for species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Washington State’s Threatened or Endangered Species – Habitat Open Space Act of 2009 provides the tools for the state to maintain these long-term working forests and trust revenue to these rural counties. It replaces these State Forest trust lands that have species-based harvest restrictions with productive, working forests in the same county.
The State Forest Replacement Program enables the Board of Natural Resources to transfer or dispose of State Forest trust lands if the lands are:
- located in a county with a population less than 25,000, and
- encumbered with timber harvest deferrals that are associated with federal ESA-listed wildlife species and greater than 30 years in length.
The state legislation stipulated that lands be appraised at fair market value without consideration of encumbrances associated with the listed species’ habitat. The State Forest Replacement Program transfers of lands into Natural Resources Conservation Area status using a process similar to that used by the Trust Land Transfer program. The value of the timber on the transferred State Forest lands is to be distributed to the beneficiaries, less the standard management fee, which is to be deposited into the Forest Development Account. Proceeds from the transferred real property are to be placed in the Park Land Trust Revolving Fund to purchase replacement forest land— in the same county as the transferred lands— that can be actively managed as State Forest lands for long-term revenue production.
The Program allows DNR to achieve the objective of maintaining long-term trust revenue to specific State Forest trust beneficiaries in small timber-dependent counties. Four counties—Klickitat, Pacific, Skamania, and Wahkiakum counties—meet the criteria of the program. Three of those four – Pacific, Skamania, and Wahkiakum counties – together have more than 7,400 acres that currently qualify for the program.
This program is funded by the Legislature by Capital Budget appropriations. Each biennium, DNR submits a list of proposed properties to be considered for funding by the Legislature. Once the program is funded and the lands are transferred, the proceeds associated with the timber located on these properties will be distributed in the same way as timber harvest revenue to the county where the transferred land is located. For most counties, including Pacific County, those funds are distributed to junior taxing districts and are used to support fire departments, hospitals, libraries and the like. RCW 79.64.110 (1)(c) provides that, in counties with populations of less than 16,000 (Wahkiakum and Skamania counties), the county’s portion of the revenue from State Forest transfer lands is distributed to the county’s current expense fund. For these counties, trust revenue plays a significant role in directly financing basic county services.