Get to Know a Forester: Todd Olson

We recently sat down with Todd Olson, the new regulation assistance forester within the Small Forest Landowner Office. The lifelong Northwesterner has worked with DNR for more than a quarter-century, and may bleed purple if you took an increment borer to him.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and gained a strong interest in forestlands and our diverse landscape throughout the state. Starting as a wildfire engine crew member in 1994, my interest was sparked to pursue a career with the DNR. Following studies at Green River Community College, I transferred to the University of Washington and graduated with a B.S. degree in Forest Management. I’ve been fortunate to be with the DNR as a permanent employee since 1998. My career spans from State Lands in the Boulder Unit (Monroe), to a Forest Practices Forester, Compliance Monitoring Field Coordinator, and now with Small Forest Landowner Office. I am grateful to the mentors I‘ve had along the way.

In my free time I enjoy traveling with my son, Zack; Husky sports; community involvement; fishing; biking; reading; long moonlit strolls on the beach; and, of course, humor.

What do you emphasize when talking to small landowners?


Many times, small forest landowners want to be heard. The value of good communication allows the landowner to express their values and their goals. Then I can offer suggestions and prepare the landowner or landowners to meet their objectives within the complicated structure of Forest Practices Rules. I do this while keeping in mind that this may be the only forest practices activity that the landowner may conduct on their property for their generation.

Describe your job.

I am the statewide Small Forest Landowner Regulation Assistance Forester.

I am available to help small forest landowners with questions and site visits relating to understanding and applying Forest Practices Rules and Board Manual guidance. This role involves providing information so that our small forest landowners are equipped to submit a Forest Practices application that achieves their goals and meets Forest Practices standards. Some of the tools available to landowners include alternate plans, long-term applications, 20-acre-exempt harvest activities, harvest regime options/regulations, road construction/maintenance options, management strategies and Forest Practices activities, rule requirements, and water typing/riparian management zone issues. I can help with all of these.

Many common questions can be handled by local DNR regional offices or Forest Practices staff. Check our website for phone numbers and locations of DNR regional offices. For Example: how to fill out an FPA basic answers like legal descriptions, riparian management zone codes, how to label units/stream segments, activity map inclusions, (or other topics that can be easily handled with the instructions), complete application standards, field marking requirements, classes of Forest Practices, forestland to non-forestland conversion activities, and other non-forestland issues (such as trees near permanent structures frequented by humans).

Basically, my role is to help our small forest landowners navigate the sometimes-complex world of Forest Practices rules.

Why do you think our work is important? 

Our work is important towards maintaining forests for multiple purposes and ultimately to keep lands from being converted to non-forestland, especially on the west side of the Cascades. This includes helping landowners across the state to meet their goals while maintaining working forests for recreation, wildlife habitat, timber production, water quality, resiliency to potential climate changes, forest health, and aesthetics. Assisting with effective management can improve forest health, which is especially beneficial east of the Cascades in reducing catastrophic fire potential. Yes, I believe in these concepts for small forest landowners across the landscape; they’re not just words or phrases. To me, it’s a major part of being a forester.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?

To impress upon others that the mission is important. However, it is more important to take care of those around us, especially on the fire line, but also in the field, the shop, or the office.

What is your favorite kind of tree and why?

The Alaska yellow cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis). A great tree with many uses. It’s really cool to view in its native setting and nearby you just might find a husky on the go.

I look forward to interacting with folks at upcoming meetings. Effective communication will be practiced to the best of my ability, which is really beneficial to understanding, consistency, and goodwill.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me at 360-902-1029 or

Anything else you would like to add?

Go DaWgs!