Message from Tami Miketa, Manager of the Small Forest Landowner Office

Tami Miketa
Tami Miketa, manager, Small Forest Landowner Office

Small forest landowners own and manage approximately 3.2 million acres of Washington’s forestlands and exert a tremendous influence on public resources, including fish-bearing streams, water quality, air quality, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. Adoption of the Forests and Fish Report (the Forest Practices Rules) was made possible, in part, by the agreement of small forest landowners who supported the intent of the law despite economic impacts to some members of their community.

Twenty years after the adoption of the Forests and Fish Report, the Washington Legislature found that it is time to evaluate how the increased harvest regulations have impacted small forest landowners and their land. They asked what can the Legislature do to keep small forest landowners on the landscape, so their land will be available for salmon habitat and water quality.

The Legislature recently pass Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5330, which directs the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences within the College of the Environment at the University of Washington to complete a trends analysis on small forest landowners across the state.

The trends analysis will address the following questions:

  • Have the number of small forest landowners increased or decreased?
  • Has the acreage held by small forest landowners increased or decreased?
  • Of the land no longer owned by small forest landowners, what percentage was converted to nonforest use, became industrial forestland, trust land, or some other use?

The School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington, using the data from the trends analysis and other pertinent information, will also:

  • Determine which factors contributed to small forest landowners selling their land;
  • Recommend actions the Legislature can take to help keep forestland working; and
  • Assess the effectiveness and implementation of the programs created in the Small Forest Landowner Office. The assessment will include:
    1. Evaluating the effectiveness of the Small Forest Landowner Office:
      • Does it have adequate resources and authority to successfully address landowner concerns?
      • Has it received adequate funding to implement fully the duties as assigned through statute?
    2. Evaluating the effectiveness of the Forestry Riparian Easement Program:
  • Does the structure of the Program adequately address the economic impact to small forest landowners?
  • Has funding kept up with need?
  • Has the lack of funding resulted in the loss of riparian habitat?
    1. Have meaningful alternate management plans or alternate harvest restrictions been developed for smaller harvest units?
    2. Has the Family Forest Fish Passage Program addressed the economic impact to landowners and fish passage barriers adequately?
    3. Would meaningful alternate harvest restrictions reduce the financial burden on the Forestry Riparian Easement Program?
    4. How can the Legislature incentivize small forest landowners to maintain their land as forestland?
    5. Could a program be developed to facilitate small forest landowners’ participation in carbon markets?

The report will also include recommendations to improve mitigation measures for small forest landowners and improve retention of working forestland held by small forest landowners.

The University of Washington may reach out to a broad variety of stakeholders for input and provide recommendations on ways the Forest Practices Board and the Legislature can provide more effective incentives to encourage continued management of nonindustrial forests for forestry uses, including traditional timber harvest uses, open space uses, or as part of developing carbon market schemes. The Small Forest Landowner Office will play a role in helping to answer these important questions.

The University of Washington is required to report the results to the appropriate committees of the Legislature and the Forest Practices Board by November 1, 2020, and I look forward to sharing the results with you as well.

Tami can be reached at tami.miketa@dnr.wa.gov.